Concerning a Stranger

Today’s reading is on 1 Kings 8:41-53.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I can’t say I’m cut out for international missions work myself – but I am endlessly impressed with those who do. There are billions of people the world over who hold one of a wide variety of beliefs; the courage and fortitude to travel to those who need the hope of the true Gospel amaze me. Numerous friends who’ve done missions at one point or another over the year have all shown inspirational love for sharing the Lord’s word with many in need. When I read 1 Kings 8:41, I think of the stories I’ve heard of people around the planet they had one small encounter with and were able to introduce God’s light into the life of someone in desperate need of hope. I think of the Great Commission in Matthew 25:16-20, and of Acts 1:8 – the call to share God’s word to every corner of the earth is a clear & explicit calling of His people.

But also on my mind when thinking about this is a topic our church recently discussed: a shift on their budget from focusing on global missions to domestic, with our pastor sharing the startling projection that in the next ten years, an estimated 30% of evangelical churches in my state of Missouri are expected to close their doors for good. It’s easy to think of this passage in 1 Kings just as King Solomon asking God to listen to the pleas of those from foreign lands who visit His temple; but that statistic on my mind makes me think of the paramount importance of each of us considering ourselves missionaries, sharing the gospel in our personal world to a foreign people in need of the word of God. Balancing these thoughts when reading this passage makes me think of Ephesians 2. Paul reminds the church at Ephesus of their state before salvation – “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Only the death of Christ reconciles us with God and with His kingdom, Paul says – “through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

We can think of missions as something that only takes place in countries and cities states, countries, and half the planet away – but sometimes, with those billions of people who don’t know Christ – or don’t even know of Christ – chances are you will find at least one daily in your life, no matter who or where you are. Paul reminds us to remember the sobering truth of our past condition: each of us, no matter the date our spiritual rebirth happened, were once foreign to God’s people, but now we are loved & cherished by our Savior in the family of believers. Strangers and foreigners to the kingdom of God are in every corner of the earth, and the need to build up & send out missionaries will always be a great one, but the work of the people of God to spread His word to those alien to His grace is the duty of each of us, no matter where. I ask myself when thinking about this passage: am I doing enough to support missions around the globe, be it through prayer or giving or participation or any other support to take the gospel across the globe? But at the same time, am I living that same missionary life at home, acting as a citizen of the kingdom of God sharing His word with foreigners to the truth, so that they may come and pray and devote themselves to Him wholeheartedly? I’ve prayed over Isaiah 56:6-8 while considering these things, and I encourage you to do the same, and consider how you too can help the Lord’s house be called a house of prayer for all people, near and far.