Too often we Christians working to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals neglect to name our motivation: Our faith in Jesus Christ and in God's saving work in the world, God's mission. We need to declare that it is because of our Christian faith that we care about the MDGs.
So what is this God's mission?
As Christians, we affirm that because of God's love for the world and desire to be united with all of humanity, God took a unique and decisive step. In the incarnation of Jesus Christ, God entered the world. In Jesus, God created a New Covenant.
Jesus was sent into the world to be the way, the truth and the life. (John 14:6) Over and over again, Jesus demonstrates his solidarity with, and preferential option for, the poor, the sick, the outcasts and those at the periphery of society. The gospels are a living testimony to Jesus' life and ministry as the source of God's salvation for the world. In Jesus, the reign of God is made real and tangible in our broken world.
Jesus demonstrates in word and deed that the reign of God must continue to expand, to move out to the ends of the earth. "As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world." (John 17:18) Jesus thus sends out his disciples, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to be the bearers of his mission, God's mission, in the world.
The movement of God's mission in heralding and making real the reign of God to the ends of the earth is exemplified in the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles, specifically the life and writings of Paul. As followers of Jesus Christ today, as the church, we continue in this apostolic vocation to serve God's mission and thus are called to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near.
Participation in God's mission is at the heart of the baptismal call. Baptism is our commission, co-mission, in God's mission. Just as God sent Jesus into the world, and Jesus sent his disciples to the ends of the earth, we, too, are sent in mission.
In the Catechism, we find a profound affirmation of the relationship between the church and God's mission: "The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." The calling of every Christian is to participate with God in the restoration of unity between ourselves and God and ourselves and each other; to participate in the missio Dei.
It is the work of the church to effect the new order, where alienation, division and separation give way to inclusion, reconciliation and unity. As the body of Christ in the world today, our work is restoration of unity of all people with God and each other in Christ.
Our part to play
And here is where the church, the body of Christ generally and the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church in particular, can play an incredibly important role in the movement to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Being faithful to the call to God's mission, effecting God's shalom, is what it means to be a faithful follower of Jesus. The MDGs offer a concrete invitation to get on with what God wants us to be about; to join with sisters in brothers in Christ, with people of other faiths, with wider global civil society to be about the repair of the world.
As Anglicans – members of a family of 38 regional or national churches in 164 countries with close to 80 million members – we are part of one of the single best networks to foster and advance the movement to achieve the MDGs. Government, academic and cultural leaders have recognized the key leadership opportunity of churches and of the Anglican Communion in particular.
The movement is not about a single quick fix, done today and forgotten tomorrow. It's about building a movement of God's people in response to the missio Dei. So as Christians, as Anglicans, as Episcopalians, we have a key role to play in the shalom movement of the MDGs. Let's be about it.