We cannot escape the fact that the environment or the culture that we grew up in and exist within influences who we are and how we interact. This is a natural occurrence. Prime example: Dominicans can move their hips in ways an American could never dream of doing.
Many, if not all of us in the millennial generation and all to come have or will be affected, rather infected by the culture. I am specifically dwelling on the 'wanderlust' epidemic. The symptoms may include but are not limited to pictures with a keep exploring flag, comparison, discontentment, and the inability to commit. The symptoms become the focus. We try to treat them, but we forget about the infection that is behind it.
Full disclosure: I have been fortunate to have traveled to many places throughout the world, and spent much of my time in breathtaking places. If you look at my Instagram you will find a slew of pictures from mountain tops all over, to cities in foreign countries, and a healthy dose of some feeble attempt at a good caption or hashtag. If you text me I might not be able to get back to you for a couple days or longer because I don't have service. As I currently write this I am in the Dominican Republic, where I have been for the past two months. Can you say hypocrite? Bear with me for a moment.
I have been working in the DR alongside long term missionaries, locals, as well as short term teams. I by all means fall in the short term category, even if 3 months sounds long compared to a week. I have learned many things, which I will share as time goes on, but I want to focus on the corruption of our motives. Including mine at times.
If you consider yourself a follower of Christ you are a missionary. Whether in your neighborhood, or in a foreign place, you are a missionary. Period. There is no separation between the Young Life leader in the local high school, the woman who moved to India to serve or the old lady who invites the new young couple next door over for dinner. The only difference is the geography and context, the mission remains the same; to be an ambassador of Christ in this broken world. Aforementioned we are influenced by our cultures and environments, whether you notice it or like it. I think we often allow the culture to taint our motives, or maybe, we use the Gospel to paint over our impure motives.
Gospel Painted Egocentrism
"...and to the ends of the earth." "Go and make disciples of all nations" We have heard these passages time and time again. All scripture is God breathed including these passages where the calling to go and make disciples is declared. I do not seek to devalue the weight of the scripture, but the weight of our sin in the way we interpret and live out this command.
If you were to initially look at this passage and read the words to go to the ends of the earth, it would imply that you are not at the ends of the earth, but that they lie over the hills and horizon. We also have the tendency to assume we are the intended audience, and have the inclination to assume that we are indeed the center. I believe this to be the nature of fallen man, and to be all the more true of American culture today. Modern day society preaches that life is all about the self. I don't think I need to try to convince you of that.
What has this done in terms of corruption? We believe we are the center. That the gospel is ours and it is ours to carry to the "ends of the earth". That it is ours to put in our backpacks and go to hand out. After all we are doing it in the name of Jesus. But, we forget that this was written to the disciples in the Middle East, not the midwest. We forget that we are the ends of the earth...
What does this mean? Are you telling me to not go? Not necessarily, I am just encouraging you to check yourself. Have you painted the Gospel over the egocentrism that you have been taught is normal.
Jesus Stamped Selfishness
A little more personal than the culture shaping egocentrism is the selfishness of our own hearts. Our desires. Our plans. Our dreams. Our mission. How can we take all those things and find some scripture to fit and justify them? So often we conjure up our own direction and put the Jesus stamp on it. We have taken our own desire to travel and justified it through mission work. We have shared all of our photos on instagram to show people what God is doing on said trip. Or is it to show people how humble we are to serve over our spring break? After all how would they know if we didn't tell them.
This may sound a little harsh, and extreme, which it may be, but I do not write these things to accuse or say that this is the case always. Obviously there are people who God has given the passion for the nations to(I have met them and am blown away by their hearts), or the eye of a photographer that can capture rare moments that glorify the Lord. All I am asking is that we begin to check ourselves and the decisions we make.
We cannot assume that just because our desires sound or look good that they are indeed good. I encourage you to really reflect on why is it that you desire what you do? What or who has influenced those things? For the good? The bad? Does it align with scripture? Am I seeking God for discernment in my decisions rather than just putting his stamp on it? Have I used the Gospel as paint to cover my blemishes, or have I let the carpenter sand and chisel them away making something pure?