Summary: God's Kingdom has come. The world has changed and Jesus commissions his disciples to go far and wide to tell others the good news.
Matthew 28:16-20 “Commissioned”
At the Sunday school that I attended each month we would have a “Missionary Sunday.” Missionaries who were on furlough would come and speak to us about their adventures. I was entranced by their stories. What really amazed me though was that anyone would take the commission to make disciples of all nations seriously enough to leave family and friends and venture to distant parts of the world.
One of the people I came to admire as I was growing up was Jim Elliot. Jim was a missionary who traveled to Ecuador. He felt called to share the gospel with a primitive tribe of Indians called the Aucas. He along with four others were killed by the Aucas. I was impressed that a person would take his faith seriously enough to be willing to give his life. Jim Elliot’s words still ring in my ears, "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose."
Though I do not believe that God calls all of us to b foreign missionaries, I do believe he does call each and every one of God’s children to be God’s witnesses and to share the gospel—the good news—of Jesus Christ with those around us. The question before us is how we do this in our diverse world today.
NO ABSOLUTE TRUTH
Every faith system believes that it has the absolute truth. Christians believe that the Bible is inspired and the authority for life and faith. Muslims believe that their Koran is the source of truth. The Buddhists are firm in their belief that what they believe is the ultimate truth. It is easy to believe that you have the absolute truth when everyone around you agrees with you. This doesn’t happen, though, in a situation where there is diversity.
One of the greatest challenges that religions have today is to discover how to live in relationship with each other. We have not done this well in the past. Theological disagreements have caused wars and created a lot of human suffering.
Jesus never commissioned his followers to baptize everyone and teach them the absolute true. Our commission, as disciples of Jesus Christ, is to teach others what Jesus has taught us. And what has Jesus taught us?
• God is love,
• Everyone in included, and
• We are to love as we have been loved.
BELIEVE YOUR OWN THING
Another approach to living out our faith in a world of diversity is to say, “You do your thing and I’ll do mine.” This is a rather apathetic approach to life. With such an approach we tolerate other people and their beliefs, but we don’t accept them. Since we have never had a conversation concerning our religious beliefs we don’t know what to accept.
Such an approach to life and faith is not in keeping with the commission that Jesus gave his disciples. Jesus didn’t tell his disciples to, “Go, and do nothing.”
Christians have something to share with others. We want to share more than a religious belief system, or religious rituals. We want to talk about a relationship with God and about God’s grace and love.
CONVERSE AND RESPECT
The best way to carry out the commission that we have been given may be to enter into conversation with people of different beliefs and faiths. We have much to share, but we also have much to learn. In fact, we might learn something from the faith of others that we can apply to our own faith journeys.
Personally, I appreciate the emphasis that the Mormon Church places on family. I have always resonated with the evangelical emphasis that many of our conservative evangelical brothers and sisters demonstrate. I am confident that there are concepts and ideas that we can learn and benefit from as we converse with people of different faiths; Muslims, Buddhists, Jews.
Such a conversation challenges us to know what is central to Christianity and important to our lives as Christians. We must discover what we do believe and identify the differences these beliefs make in our lives. During our conversations it is vital that we demonstrate in word and deed God’s love and grace.
Christians have so much good news to share with others. We have been so blessed to experience a relationship with God, be recipients of God’s forgiveness, love and grace, and live lives of purpose and meaning. We will not find receptive hearts if we start with the idea that we are right and everyone else is wrong. We will only be able to accomplish the commission that Jesus has called us to when we share what is important to us and listen to what is important to others. Doing this, we know that God will be with us, just as God promised.