I once knew a church in a part of Michigan that claimed to reach their entire town for the cause of Christ.
They lauded that they had gone door to door to every house in town, and every person in every home had claimed that they had accepted Christ as their savior or prayed with the church’s representatives to accept Christ as their savior. The church was ecstatic about this realization. They felt that they had reached their entire town. That they had completed the Great Commission in their Jerusalem. While I am sure this crusade started with the greatest intentions, it is not a true embrace of the Great Commission in daily life as Christ intended.
Before Jesus ascended back into the presence of His Father, He left us with a command, known as the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And Behold , I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matt. 28:18-20). Like the church mentioned above, so much of Christian thought today revolves around the concept of leading people to a saving knowledge of Christ, while we silently hope that we do not have to walk with them as they sanctify through the murkiness of sin.
The truth is, however, that the Great Commission is not a once and done conversation with folk to accept the truth of Christ. When Jesus says “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” He is not talking merely of the theological ascent of metaphysical truths. The word baptize reaches deeper than dunking with water, it means to “submerge.” This goes deeper than the sacrament of baptism that we celebrate with water. It shows a union to Christ on the deepest of Spiritual levels.
God knew that the natural state of man is atrophy.
He specifically entrusted a commission to “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all the commandments.” This means that being on mission is not something that often happens organically; it happens strategically. It is an intentional point to engage the community that God has placed you in. Engaging a community that God has entrusted to you. This means even engaging the culture around you that makes you feel uncomfortable. It is coming face to face with the people that we avoid; the people who are on the opposite side of the political tracks, the LGBTQ community, the immigrant, the criminal, the “boomers” and the “millennials”.
Living out the Great Commission is an acceptance of the fact that the same sin lodged in your neighbor is the same sin that once condemned you. There is not a difference. Or as writer, Rosaria Butterfield says, “Love the sinner, and hate your own sin.”
The goal of the Great Commission is not to create a horde of converts who hold the same philosophical presuppositions as you. It is not to create adherents to theological creeds or birth pharisaical mimics. The Great Commission beckons us to be heralds of a better story that Jesus is telling. The better story that invites us to shake off the shackles of our sin and shame and embrace a new life that He has provided to us through the cross.
We have been given an amazing opportunity to reach out during this season in our world. We live in turbulent times. There are a lot of people who are terrified. A lot of people who are actually in real risk. Maybe it’s your neighbor. Maybe a grandparent. Maybe it is the family whose dad just got laid off because of the virus shutting down his job site. God has placed you in these communities. And has entrusted you with the Gospel. You are the light in a dark world consumed in panic. And the only question we need to ask ourselves is this: “Am I willing to be the light here? Am I willing to love my neighbor and be the love of Christ?”