Summary: Jesus’ call to us is to use the natural intersections of life to share what we know, to learn together with others, and to claim the victory of the Lord who will always be with us.
My wife and I made the rounds of the carpet stores one evening last week. She is a member of the church’s Building and Grounds Committee and has been given the assignment of refurbishing my office. It was an educational experience, but not a particularly entertaining one.
At one carpet store we saw something we thought would look good. We got a rough quotation on the price; it sounded reasonable, but the store didn’t have exactly the right color, and they suggested we check back a couple of days later. We did that, we found the color we wanted, and were suddenly treated to a new price quotation about 50% higher than the original one! We walked out. We thought that was hostile behavior. We thought that was an aggressive, negative relationship.
At a second carpet store we looked around; we saw a few things. We had some questions and tried to find an employee who could help us. When one of them finished his rummaging around in the remnants and the rags, he pointed across the room to something we might want to look at, he ducked his eyes back to his other pursuits, and he muttered something about maybe getting some new stock in in a couple of weeks. We walked out. We thought that was passive behavior. We thought that was a rather disengaged relationship. It felt as though he just didn’t care.
At a third carpet store we opened the door and were greeted immediately by a group of salesmen who pounced on us, asked us what they could do for us, and pushed their business card at us. When they sorted it out among themselves as to who would wait on us, the gentleman who won us as his prize walked us all over the store, showed us fragments and remnants of everything under the sun, figured up prices, and made doubly sure we had his name and his phone number. Now we still walked out. We still didn’t buy – too much money – and I still have the old grass green stuff with huge ink stains on it. But at least we now know where we can get positive behavior. At least we now know who seems interested in meeting us halfway. At least we now know who asserts himself toward us and who will make an effort to do something for us.
We may not have any carpet yet, but we sure do have a whole set of lessons in human relationships. We certainly do see that you can deal with people in one of three basic ways: you can deal negatively, with hostility and with aggression; you can make people feel as though they have to defend themselves.
Or you can deal passively, just not getting involved; you can make people feel as though they are being ignored and that they don’t count.
Or you can deal positively, you can try to get involved and you can try to assert something. You can help people feel significant and important and wanted. You can go share something good with them.
Does Jesus Christ have a word for us on this basic issue in human relationships? Negative, passive, or positive? What is His expectation of us?
Matthew 28: 16-20
Go …make disciples …teaching. The verbs are powerful, positive, assertive. If you take Jesus seriously you cannot stand around defending yourself against the world’s attacks; that would be negative behavior. And you cannot sit around keeping cool; that would be passive behavior. If you take Jesus seriously, you neither stand around nor sit around, you walk around teaching something, sharing something, positive behavior. Go … make disciples … teaching.
We call this passage of scripture the Great Commission. We use it, and rightly, to call people into foreign missions. We focus on the going: go to all nations. And that’s OK, but that is also daunting, isn’t it? That’s a big one to swallow. If I listen to this Scripture, does that mean I have to get on a: slow boat to China in order to be obedient to Christ?
The folks who look carefully at the language of the New Testament point out that in this passage the word "Go" is not really a verb, not really an imperative. It’s a participle. English teachers in the congregation, are you with me on this? "Go" in the original is a participle, so that really the translation ought to be, "Going, therefore make disciples." "Going … therefore make disciples … teaching."
The point is that you and I are going. We really have no choice about that. We are going into the world. We’re going anyway. We’re engaging the world anyway. So, "going, teach." I like to translate it this way: "Since you’re going anyway, you might as well make disciples … teaching". Since you’re going anyway, teach. Positive behavior toward the world.