Strangely some of the hardest parts of the New Testament are those parts that were designed to be the most practical. Often based on household codes they were to help the new communities of Jesus followers to be communities of character and to be seen to be living Godly lives.
Why? Because the character of our witness matters. If we are eloquent for Jesus but unloving rat bags we are clanging gongs. If we like too much drink, lack integrity or are loud mouths we malign the word of God and make our testimony unattractive.
Skills and competencies matter but character matters more because eventually our heart and our character will shine out: though a commitment to continuing growth and to being a reflective practitioner can help both skill acquisition and character development.
Followers of Jesus should be full of grace and mercy, like the one we profess to follow. Children of God should have the same passion for justice and righteousness (things being in right relationship with God, others and ourselves) as the one we honour as ‘Our Father’. Those filled with the Spirit of God should be overflowing with love and compassion as the character of God is seen in us.
These things should be true for every Christian, not just for those who live and work cross-culturally but, as with the first gentile believers, it is particularly important that we are faithful to Jesus and live this out in ways appropriate to the culture we live in (and not necessarily the culture we come from).
This requires humility. Humility should come naturally to us since we are following the one who didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped but took on the nature of a servant; however, the fact remains that we need to be reminded to consider others better than ourselves. In his excellent book “Global Humility Attitudes for Mission” Andy McCullogh suggests humility has a number of dimensions including moral, theological and cultural which are all needed if we are to serve and live among people from around the world.
Character and faithfulness are bigger than we might at first think. They apply to mission organisations as well as the individual mission workers. For example, Jesus says that people will know we are his disciples by our love for one another…..so when people see Christian groups competing against one another, failing to work together and not demonstrating any unity they are entitled to ask why. Likewise when we follow the one who came to serve but act in ways that control, or consider others as somehow less than us, we deny the message we proclaim. Both missionary and mission agency need to be attentive to the character of our witness.