The author of today's essay is Eric Mason. Eric was my guest a few weeks back on the Exchange.
By Eric Mason
Momentum is key when on mission with God. Whenever you feel momentum has been secured, you sense that God's grace in the sowing will show itself in reaping as well. Joshua experienced this divine favor when on mission. Joshua 6:27 says: "And the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land." It doesn't get any better than having God-centered recognition on the battlefield for the Lord.
But as good as things can go on mission, they can go just as badly as well. The Lord God commanded the Hebrews in Joshua 6:17-18 to destroy everything and let the silver and gold be added to the treasury of the Lord. "The Israelites, however, were unfaithful regarding the things set apart for destruction. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of what was set apart, and the Lord's anger burned against the Israelites" (Jos 7:1).
"Unfaithful" points to the fact that this sin flows out of unbelief. In Chapter 6:22-25 an entire family was spared because of faithfulness, but in this chapter an entire family was punished because of unfaithfulness. Sin impacts the life of the missionary community no matter how large or small. As large in number as Israel was at this point, you might assume that such a sin would not impact the entire community. But sin is no trivial matter. It was a distraction from the mission God called His people to and it impacted their effectiveness in moving forward (7:2-5).
God's fame is eternal (Is 63:12) and will not be diminished by human sin, and yet He will call the community that bears His name to face the issues of sin in its midst, in order to restore the community to Himself and call them to further faithfulness.
On the mission field, the question is not whether there will be sin, but whether sin will be dealt with in a way that honors God and His gospel. Unrepentance delays resolution. Time spent working on the unrepentant is time that could have been dedicated to mission. Achan was given opportunity to repent seven times (Jos 7:12-18). His expeditious repentance would have saved the community time and energy and kept them on task.
As costly as confrontation and restoration are, the community must engage these tasks just as fully as all other aspects of mission (7:25-26). Even under the New Covenant the people of God are called to discipline the unrepentant in a Christ-centered way (1Co 5). By letting the sin fester, God's people would have experienced a further setback in the mission of God. Refusing to deal with sin is the same as joining the unrepentant in their sin.
When sin is dealt with properly, mission is not hindered but strengthened as with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. Mission increased in Acts 5:14 because the sin was dealt with fully. The same is true in any context. Sin is a mission killer, but repentance invites blessing.