A Mission From God
September 17th, 2008 by Sonja

Sometime during the last week or so, LightBoy came to me with a request for his Halloween costume this year.”I want to be a Blues Brother, Mom.”

It kinda took me by surprise.  I had no idea where he came by that idea.  I last saw that movie when it was in theaters and I think I was in high school, or maybe in college.  Shortly after that there was a conversation dripping in disdain between he and LightGirl concerning the relative importance of the Blues Brothers.  It ended with LightBoy reporting confidently, “Well, of course, they’re important!  They INVENTED the blues.”  I struggled mightily to keep from bursting into laughter at this and decided that it was time for my kids to be initiated into the comedic genius of John Belushi.

So it was that we watched “The Blues Brothers” for Friday’s family movie night.  It turned out that in the intervening 25-ish years I’d forgotten quite a bit.  No surprise there.  It’s still a really funny movie.  There’s quite a bit of, um, language in it.  But since I was a naive 18 year old when I saw it the first time, I had no idea how many jazz and blues greats had been assembled to make that movie.  Or how many blues tunes were in it.  It was really amazing from that perspective as well.

Of course, the plot was very, very thin.  Jake (John Belushi) gets released from prison.  Jake & Elwood (Dan Ackroyd) go to visit the orphanage they were raised in.  It is about to be auctioned off for delinquent taxes and is run by nuns, with an aged caretaker (Cab Calloway).  Jake & Elwood decide to gather together their band and raise the back taxes.  There are plot twists, etc.  At every obstacle, Elwood responds, “We’re on a mission from God.”  It’s his assurance that they will overcome every hurdle no matter how broad or high.  It keeps them focused and on task.  Ultimately and hilariously they do prevail, just in front of the police, the US Army, the “American Nazi Party,” and who knows else.  The taxes are paid, the orphanage saved, but Jake & Elwood are triumphantly lead away in handcuffs.

I’ve been thinking about the movie quite a bit in the days since we watched it.  It was funny, no doubt about it.  Elwood’s signature line has been often repeated around our house with great glee and laughter.  “We’re on a mission from God.”  and it would lead him to some fairly nefarious behavior; behavior that inevitably involved fast cars or other silliness.

I’ve been thinking though, about how often we do that.  We all do it.  We think we’re on a mission from God; we’ve got righteousness on our side and so we can act with aplomb.  Because our ends are right, we will somehow escape the consequences of our behavior.  Or it may be that we won’t escape the consequences of our behavior, but those consequences will be worth it, just as they were for Jake & Elwood.

I’ve been wondering though about the detritus that we leave in our wake.  If you watch that video (which is sped up and is really a montage), you see what happens when Jake and Elwood become so hyper-focused on getting the tax money to the office on time.  The analogy has limits, I’ll admit, but then again, maybe it doesn’t .  How many times do we do the same thing?  How often do we think that we have to do something, that we cannot entrust a task to someone else and the cars pile up in our wake?  All because, “we’re on a mission from God.”

How many times do we think that getting to an end point involves skirting the edges of the law or ethical behavior, maybe even falling over the edge, and that’s alright because, “we’re on a mission from God?”  But the cars pile up in our wake.

So the question I’m posing today is this:  does being on a “mission from God” excuse one’s behavior?  Does being “right” or “correct” trump the commands given by Jesus in Matthew 22?  Or is there something in there that will help us do both, that is be correct and be loving at the same time … without having the cars pile up behind us?

7 Responses  
  • Jarred writes:
    September 17th, 20088:49 amat

    Good questions! I’m not sure I’m prepared to answer them, though.

  • Peggy writes:
    September 17th, 20083:03 pmat

    Well, the abbess believes that our means and our ends must be consistent. To attempt to do the work of the Kingdom of God in ways that are not consistent with the character of the King means that we have stepped outside of the righteousness of Jesus in which we are clothed … and that leave us, um, exposed.

    I think that Paul’s words in I Corinthians 13 are good companions to Jesus’ words in Matthew 22. If what we do is not loving God and loving others, than we have to stop and regroup. Regrouping frequently involved confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation….

    If we are to speak the truth, it must be truly in the spirit of love…otherwise, I don’t think it is really truth. There may be some facts that are correct, but we are also responsible for the delivery methodology of those facts.

    I think cars piling up behind us fits nicely into the category of causing someone to stumble … and we need to be careful with those who dance with us, eh?

  • Ken Berggren writes:
    September 17th, 20083:28 pmat

    The answer involves faith. Do you trust that the One who called you will be faithful Himself to the mission? Do you believe He has the victory even when it involves a cross? If you do, then you will abide by His rules. If not, then you will probably take matters into your own hands. Jake and Elwood would never make my list of top ten missionaries.

    A much better story on this issue is Prince Caspian where the dwarf Nikabrik brings the Hag and Werewolf to resurrect the White Witch. “And so,” said Nikabrik, whose voice now rose to a scream, “if you can’t help my people, I’ll go to someone who can.”

  • Funny Blog » Blog Archive » A Mission From God writes:
    September 17th, 20087:31 pmat

    […] Sonja wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptUltimately and hilariously they do prevail, just in front of the police, the US Army, the “American bNazi/b Party,” and who knows else. The taxes are paid, the orphanage saved, but Jake Elwood were arrested. b…/b […]

  • Patrick O writes:
    September 17th, 20089:44 pmat

    “Does being on a “mission from God” excuse one’s behavior? Does being “right” or “correct” trump the commands given by Jesus in Matthew 22?”

    I think the behavior is the most important bit. That is, I might even say, the mission from God.

    This has been one of the biggest, most important, lessons God has had to teach me over the years. I remember being in seminary and ‘right’ about a whole lot. It wasn’t just arrogance, I actually was right about a whole lot. God has given me gifts, I think, of study and discernment that open my eyes to a lot of realities in this world, and in worlds we don’t see.

    But that has come with harsh lessons, massive humbling, so that I’ve increasingly realized being right is so secondary. What does being right solve on most things? Ego. Minor change in situation. Slight boost in rank. It leaves behind dissension, and distrust, and breaks apart community, making that issue become more important than those around us.

    Jesus did not say, “Be right about God and be right about others.” He said love God and love others, love which sometimes mean being willing to seen as wrong, trusting that God will be the one who works out truth.

    I still like being right, mind you, and sometimes I get caught up in that, steamrolling people in my quest, that I call, for truth. But it damages my soul, my sensitivity, my awareness, and my effectiveness.

    Better to just be foolish, and love as I can.

    That being the case there are times in which right is vital. A whole lot less than we think, but there are those moments. Scripture indicates them–things such as acknowledging God in who he says he is, treating the poor with respect (which is our behavior to them, not our choice of some groups policy about them), and others to be sure.

    Learning this more has been a big difference in my dialogue between this election and the last one. Though, I’m not far enough along yet to not have to bite my tongue and wish I could say something particularly harsh.

    God’s not in that though, even if I’m right.

  • Ken Berggren writes:
    September 17th, 200810:54 pmat

    Patrick, your comment made me think of this poem by C.S. Lewis called “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer.”

    From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
    From all the victories that I seemed to score;
    From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
    At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
    From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
    Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

    Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead
    Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
    From all my thoughts, even from thoughts of Thee,
    O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
    Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye,
    Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.

  • kievasfargo writes:
    September 18th, 20088:08 pmat

    I’ll have to watch that movie again…it’s been ages. I think, though, that many of us get so carried away with the mission that we don’t stop to think about whether God is really in it after all.

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