What does it mean to you to be a follower of Jesus in South Africa in 2019? To be a part of a vibing church and a thriving youth ministry? Or to be digging a little deeper and really grappling with what it means to be a part of the mission of God.
In Isaiah 61 we read this:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn…
Does that sound like the youth ministry you are involved with? It’s Old Testament, right? So we don’t have to pay it as much attention, surely?
JESUS’ MISSION IS OUR MISSION
But how about this passage which comes a few verses later in verse 4:
They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations.
Hm, that is starting to sound like a lot of places around South Africa. I wonder if there might be more relevance for us in there somewhere?
There is an amazing story in Luke 4 where Jesus enters the temple and is given the scroll of Isaiah to read and He turns it to this passage and reads a portion of it. But then in verse 21, Jesus does something quite shocking [at least to the audience in the temple] when He boldly states: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
So in Isaiah we get this beautiful passage which lays out the mission of God and in Luke we see Jesus saying, “This is Me!” and a little bit later we are taught that we are the body of Christ. Which means that Jesus’ mission is our mission. We are called to proclaim good news to the poor; to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim freedom for the captives; and so on.
A HIGHER CALLING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
What a high calling. So much higher than the one young people are often given in church which sounds something like, “Don’t have sex before you’re married and don’t do drink/drugs/cigarettes!” or maybe even dancing, depending on the church.”
This should not come as a surprise to us. Rather, it’s just a commentary on that line in the greatest command Jesus talks about in Matthew 22 when He says, “Love your neighbour as yourself!”
We are called to love God with all of our heart, strength, soul and mind. But then we are also called to do the same for our neighbour, and Jesus makes it clear that our neighbour is not just geographical but includes the marginalised and even our enemies. He seals it by saying, “all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two.” Loving our neighbour in a way that embodies the call of Isaiah and the acceptance of that call by Jesus should be the very heartbeat of the way we do youth ministry, as well as the way we spend our time, energy and money.
What are you doing to embrace the mission and this very good news to those on the outskirts?
Just imagine if we as a youth group, or even a church, decided to commit ourselves to fulfilling the mandate in Isaiah 61 as best we could in 2019? What kind of impact might that have in South Africa? Is this a sort of Good News that those on the outside of the church might actually be able to get behind and might it in fact help point people towards Jesus?