David Livingstone was a complex man. He was born in Scotland in 1813. As a young man, he heard Robert Moffat, the celebrated missionary to South Africa. Moffat challenged a group of young people, “I had sometimes seen in the morning sun the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary had ever been.” Livingstone responded to the call and determined to take the gospel to those villages. He studied theology and medicine – and then proceeded to marry Moffat’s daughter, Mary (it is unclear whether Livingstone was more motivated by Moffat or his daughter).
But along the way, Livingstone’s trajectory changed. He spent a stint in Africa. But it became evident that he wasn’t a very good preacher. It also became evident that he was extraordinarily gifted scientist and explorer. Eventually he parted ways with the London Missionary Society and signed on with the Royal Geographical Society as a champion of British exploration.
Needless to say, Livingstone took a lot of heat for this decision. No one was more disappointed than his missionary father-in-law Robert Moffat. Livingstone was resolute in his decision and he responded, “My views of what is missionary duty are not so contracted as those whose ideal is a dumpy sort of man with a Bible under his arm. I have labored in bricks and mortar, at the forge and at the carpenter’s bench, as well as in preaching and medical practice. I feel that I am ‘not my own.’ I am serving Christ when shooting a buffalo for my men, or taking an astronomical observation.”*
Livingstone understood that life cannot be neatly divided between the sacred and the secular. All of our lives belong to Christ. And everything we do must be done in service for him. We are not our own. We would do well to remember that when we resume our tasks this week.
*Jay Milbrandt, The Daring Heart of David Livingstone, 22.
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