One thing we discovered while living as missionaries overseas was that not all mission workers are created equal. We experienced this in many ways. Some workers are just more gifted than others. They brought more to the game. Others were better at language or cultural adaptation. Still others seemed to be able to have a tremendous impact, even amidst complete failure. The difference that stood out the most was in finances. While many of our friends lived on a very tight budget, often moving from place to place and relying on public transportation, others had more than enough funding, owning a home, and multiple cars.
If you come from a culture where equity is a value, this isn’t easy to justify. It becomes the root of bitterness for many. We coined a saying that helped us deal with these feelings. “Not all missionaries are created equal.” Separating ourselves from our idealism, we realize that no one is “created” equal. We start in different places, have different gifts, and follow different paths, though the same God lays out those paths.
I wrote a poem long ago illustrating this reality and calling myself back to humility.
Fairness Has a Point of View
I have a child and
She has dyslexia so
Success has come at
A great sacrifice.
I often complain
I have a friend and
He had a son who
Was just two when
They buried him.
Am silent.By Jeff Boesel
No, our paths are not the same. We are not created equal. Our responsibility is to glorify God with all that we are on the road he has laid out for us. Jesus lays this out clearly for Peter just before his return to heaven.
After hearing Jesus explain that he would be martyred, Peter points to John and asks how he will die. Jesus replies, “If I want him to live until I return, why should you care? You follow me.” (John 21:22 my paraphrase)
Wow, and ouch. Jesus does not promise equity or freedom from sacrifice. He does promise that he will be with us every step of our way. Our responsibility is to follow him just as he followed his Father obediently. As the apostle Paul put it,
“Commit yourself to think and live in the same way that Christ Jesus did… “(Phil 2:5 and following, my paraphrase)