What God Values

One of the missionaries our church supports is retiring after more than 40 years of service in Africa.

I suspect that there is nothing “sweet” for her about an experience that many might call “bitter-sweet.” She has invested her life into a people and a country that has become more home to her than the country into which she was born.

The last time she was back in Canada on Home Assignment we talked about this eventuality. I could relate because I had done what she is now doing. But for me it was easier. I had had longer periods here in Canada even while serving overseas. That provided me with the chance to adjust to being “here” rather than “there.” She has had little opportunity in her 40 years to do that. Basically she is returning to a “foreign” country.

And it is “foreign.” It is not the same place, these are not the same people, this is not the same church, she left behind 40 years ago.

I sent her an email this morning that I hope will be an encouragement to her in these days of packing up, saying goodbye and coming home. Her greatest concern when last she was home was whether or not she would be able to find significant ministry to do back here in Canada. There is never a shortage of work to do in the service of the Lord wherever you go, but the sad truth is that she will probably not be allowed to do here what she was able to do in Africa—at least not in the circles in which she will likely be traveling. She fears that. Now, with all the experience that she has gained, the wisdom of the years and the skills God has given her, she has a great deal to offer the body of Christ. But will they honour her for all of that by allowing her to be who she is?

I hope so.

This morning, I was reading the parable of the unjust steward as told in Luke 16:1-13. While the Biblical story itself doesn’t relate to my friend’s personal story, the conclusion of the parable took me back to the path that lies before her. In the parable Jesus is illustrating for the Pharisees that they can only have one master. The religious rulers had a well-earned reputation for being more concerned with looking after themselves rather than living for God. Jesus’ warning was that there can be only one Master—God. Apparently the Pharisees sought to justify their greed (Luke 16:15) but Jesus didn’t let them off the hook. He would go on to tell another parable about the rich man and Lazarus the beggar to reinforce His teaching (Luke 16:19-31). As the discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees progressed, the Lord made this statement: “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15).

Men value things that God doesn’t value. God values things that men don’t. The teaching here circles around the handling of wealth. But there is a principle here that applies to all of life. That brought me back to my missionary friend. My fear is that she is leaving a society that does value her to return to a society that doesn’t. That is an awful experience, and I tried to encourage her to remember that God values what men often don’t. God values her—not for what she has done over these 40 years (which is a lot), not for the sacrifices she has made (which are many), not for the job description or the title that she is now laying aside. He values her because of her relationship to Christ.

Whether or not she is honoured when she returns home (and I pray she will be) and allowed to be all that she is (that would be a blessing to the body of Christ), doesn’t change what God thinks. In the end what God thinks is all that matters. Still, while I pray that my friend will wrap herself in the truth of how God feels about her, I also pray that men will treat her with the same honour that one day she will receive from Christ when He greets her in glory. If they don’t, I suspect God may have something to say to them about their poor treatment of someone He values.

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