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Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog

Just thinking out loud about a difference that makes a difference in Christian ethics.  That's the difference between "charity" and "mission" (for lack of a better word). 

It would be easy to disparage one in order to lift up the other, which would predictably leave charity a sad, if gilded, handmaid of mission.  I'd rather not do that, though.  Charity, or what we've also called "benevolence" has its place.  Without it, mission would be impossible.  Charity gives to perceived need or in support of a social good, and perceived needs should be met and social goods should be supported.  I like charity.  It's good when people give of what they have to help, even if it's the extra and not the "stuff." 

I should be more charitable.  And so should you.  I got no truck with charity.

Ah, but mission.  Mission is a God-given something else.  It's fleeting, harder to point to, but as essential to living a good and holy life as charity. 

How do we spy the difference?

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Well, a charity usually tickles one part of us.  Maybe it something that pulls at the heart.  Maybe it's a problem that needs the attention of your mind. 

A mission, however, tickles all of us—heart, mind, spirit, and even our network of relationships.

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A charity inspires us to act on its behalf.

A mission teaches us something we didn't know, even if we didn't think it would.  In that, it changes us

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A charity satisfies our impulse to help.

A mission unsettles us.  It feels as much given to us as chosen by us.  It's not an obsession that controls us; it's a passion that makes us.  And there's a difference between those two.

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A charity provides an opportunity to achieve a goal. 

A mission humbles us with a reordering of our priorities.  When something becomes a mission, we can tolerate failure and setbacks without giving up, for we labor on toward faithfulness and truth in a mission rather than toward mere success.

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A charity is in some ways self-satisfied and goes about recruiting others.

A mission is open to correction, and frees others to participate with simple invitation.

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A charity expresses our sense of responsibility.  Our response is a gracious "you're welcome."

A mission shapes our identity, and feels like a privilege.  Our response is an enthusiastic, "No . . . thank you."  A mission is not the object of our generosity, but a subject in our redeeming.

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I think I need a mission.