A quick thought from some devotional reading this morning: I was studying the passage where Jesus sends the 72 disciples out onto their first mission.
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Luke 10.1-2)
We get our English word “mission” from the Latin word “missio,” so whenever Jesus “sends” someone they are being invited to join in a mission from God. That’s a pretty profound idea, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. One of the great joys of my life is believing that I have been sent on a mission, and I wish that same joy for every person I meet. I think there are a lot of reasons we don’t live aspeople on mission, and I’ll share some thoughts on that in a later post.
What struck me today was the original word that Jesus used in this passage from Luke. When Jesus tells the disciples that they should pray that God would “send out” workers, he uses the Greek word ekballo. At the root level, the word means to “drive out,” or to “expel.” The root word is ballo, which is the basis of the English word “ballistic.”
Ballistic can certainly have a negative connotation, but when I did a little bit of research on it today I discovered that we first used that word in English to describe the force required to launch a missile. The early missiles could not reach their necessarily altitude if they were not “ballistic.”
There is something about that image that stirs something within me — Jesus told us we should pray that God would send us out in the world like missiles.
Taken the wrong way this image could create discomfort, and rightly so. I don’t think Christians should ever be associated with anything that feels colonial, overpowering, or conquest oriented. There are many historical chapters in the story of Christianity that got this wrong.
But when Jesus tells his followers to pray for this type of energy, he is not using ballistic to describe the outcome of their work. Rather, he is using it to describe the internal combustion that gives them the necessary energy and power to reach their designed altitude. It is describing what is necessary at the internal level – not the external results of the mission.
As someone that takes mission very seriously, I find myself inspired by this image. It is comforting to remember that when mission feels hard and scary and even exhausting, I shouldn’t be surprised. If mission were easy and required little of us, then more people would be quick to participate.
Jesus addressed the degree of difficulty in mission from the very beginning. If we are going to have any staying power in mission, then you and I are going to need the same fuel that shoots a missile into the sky.
We need more people to go ballistic.