In this series on Matthew 10, we are looking at the meaning of “missional” in light of what Jesus said to his Apostles when he sent them out as “missioners.”
Missional work involves a balancing act of innocence and shrewdness.
Matthew 10:14-16 evokes the seriousness of missional work. Jesus tells the Twelve that if villages reject the Kingdom, when they leave that village they are “shake the dust off their feet.” It is quite normal to call to mind that some rabbis taught the observant to shake Gentile dust off their feet when they had been abroad and crossed the border into the Land of Israel. Whether or not this is the context is of less importance than that this is precisely what the action of shaking dust off the feet is all about. The Apostles were to enact reception by staying put and to enact rejection by shaking off dust.
In all this, Jesus says, the disciples are to be as “shrewd as snakes but as innocent as doves.” Here is the balancing act of the missional worker. Why? Because the missional person finds herself or himself on the border, in liminality, and that means being forced to make decisions never made before. Forced to do things never done before. Forced to engage in situations never engaged before. Force to try new things and see new things and say new things — and it is not easy to know what is right sometimes.
So, Jesus summons his followers to live in liminality (the theme of the new e-journal Resonate) and summons them to do so by following his ethic of loving God and loving others but at the same time to do so creatively, cleverly, shrewdly, and resourcefully.
Missional work is a balancing act. Those who are working this out among the emerging movement — whether (as I am) in the academy or in the founding of a new gathering or in the maintenance a new way already with momentum — know what it means to need balance while wending through liminality.
Some of you may know the balancing act you’ve had to live. Any thoughts?