Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, so send I you.
The first stanza of Margaret Clarkson’s hymn, “So Send I You” emphasizes the exclusive relationship with Christ. The second emphasizes the exclusiveness of the purpose and our passions as His people. The third emphasizes the sufficiency of the Lord’s love to satisfy the servant’s heart.
So send I you to loneliness and longing,
With heart ahung’ring for the loved and known,
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one-
So send I you to know My love alone.
In this stanza we do not need to guess what the scriptural thought was behind the words, for at the end of the story of the Rich Young Ruler Christ tells His disciples, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sister or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matt. 19:29-30).
As the Son left heaven to come to earth – and the idea of Him doing so is filled with mystery, yet it must have meant something deep and personal was absent from His life here on earth – so He calls us to leave “the loved and known” to share the gospel with others. For some it is an evening away from the family making a visit to someone for the sake of Christ. For others it is a life time spent away from loved ones, away from familiar and comfortable surroundings, to spend youth and adulthood and even retirement years sharing God’s love with others.
There are blessings along the way, things that we find more than tolerable, even enjoyable and fun, perhaps even better than some familiar thing we left behind. Luke recorded the words of Christ that His followers will “receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:30). Service for Christ is not always a curse; more often than not there are hidden blessings and even hilarious moments.
But anyone who takes up the mantle of witness for Christ seriously will find himself often separated from loved ones, not only physically but emotionally and in personal interests as well. There is a predictable pattern of response when we and other missionary friends of ours have come home. At first there is real but fleeting interest in our lives overseas, then after a while there is feigned interest, and then almost complete boredom. Our loved ones, even those who encourage us and support our work, do not care to hear our stories, rather they want us to hear theirs. And, honestly, we find it difficult to try and explain the common and every day circumstances of life lived in another nation, culture, language, and people. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “It’s not love’s going that hurts my days, but that it went in little ways,” we sometimes find little present interests in common with close family members. Love seemed to have gone in little ways.
I do not need to say, I hope, that none of this excuses the neglect of family, of failing to genuinely love and care for close family members. If we neglected that responsibility, we would be worse than an infidel according to Paul (1 Timothy 5:8). But “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24) – the Lord Jesus Himself who never leaves us or forsakes us. In the absence of familiar friends, the Lord becomes that much dearer to the searching heart. There are other places to turn – alcohol and pornography often top the list of the unhealthy lonely addictions – but none satisfy the heart like the Lord.
In John 17 the Lord hit the highest points of His teaching ministry on what it means to know Him, and there is an eternity of depth in the words. “I have revealed you,” Christ prayed to the Father, “to those you gave me out of the world” (17:6), and the revelation was not only a brief, fleeting show of who God is, but a life poured out for and into other lives. “Anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father,” He said earlier to them that same evening (John 14:9). And as He continued to pray the intent of this revelation was revealed, so that we might be with Him and see His eternal glory, “in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (17:26).
There are truths of the Christian life that the Bible describes in less personal and intimate terms, among these are life, light, new creations, forgiveness, justification, righteousness, adoption, election, glorification, and many others. The heart of the Christian experience, however, is none of these, rather it is the intimate knowledge of God Himself through Christ, or reconciliation with God. Conservative theologian Johann Tobias Beck, who taught at Tuebingen in the1800’s, made this point well when he wrote,
Christianity concentrates the whole fulness of revelation in the one human personality of Jesus Christ as Mediator — that is, as the mediating central principle of the new Divine organism, in its fulness of Spirit and Life, in and for the human personal life. With the entrance of Christ into the human individual, the Divine life becomes imminent in us, not in its universal world-relation, but as a personal principle, so that man is not only a being made of God, but a being begotten of God.
All other impersonal traits of our salvation come from this one central and very personal experience of the “entrance of Christ into the human individual” and so the nature of the Christian life is first, foremost, and always intimacy with Him. “Now this is eternal life,” Christ prayed, “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
Dr George Matheson, the blind Scottish preacher, lost his eye sight at twenty years of age, shortly after he entered the University of Glasgow. Yet his gifts for the ministry were so extensive that he served as a well-known and well-loved pastor for years. Queen Victoria had invited him to come to Balmoral and preach his sermon on Job – of particular power coming from a blind preacher. On the day of his sister’s marriage he was nursing his own broken heart – the girl he was engaged to had said she could not be married to a blind man. His comfort was found in the nearness of the love of Christ, as it has been found before and since by believers around the world. In deep communion with God he wrote of the compelling and comforting love of Christ, in his famous hymn “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go.”
O love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in Thee;
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depth its flow
May richer, fuller be.