So many thoughts percolating in my head today. Yesterday’s sermon at our church (King of Kings PCA) was the second in a series of sermons on the Great Commission, the famous passage in Matthew 28 where believers are commissioned for the cause of Christ.
16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In analyzing how modern day Christians often respond to this missional call, our pastor described a “circling of wagons” behavior exhibited by water buffalo, in which the males would circle together, horns facing out, putting them at their maximum advantage in protecting the rest of the herd against potential danger. The females & young, those vulnerable to threats, were protected by the males, who had the strength and the weapons to successfully fend off predatory animals seeking to harm them. He related this defensive posture to the way so many believers – and groups of believers – venture into the world, aggressively defensive of our faith, and seeking to battle those who would undermine us. This runs completely counter to the example of Christ, and counter to what we have been commissioned to do. How are we to “make disciples of all nations” if we go out in the world with guns blazing, critical and judgmental of the very people we are commissioned to disciple, setting ourselves apart as more holy, more pious, more Christian than anyone around us? The answer is we can’t.
Even more critically, we aren’t more holy, more pious, more Christian. We can’t be, if we are holding ourselves up to be standard bearers of what it means to be those things.
Who are we to lead with our weapons of judgment, piety, legalism, and more, and to expect to draw people to Christ when the image we reflect is so undesirable, so off-putting. If that is how we approach the world, then perhaps an examination of our own hearts is warranted. Recall in Luke 10 the manner in which Jesus sends out the “seventy-two others” to speak in his name.
10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ 6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. 7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. 9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
We are to enter the world as a lamb into a den of wolves…gently, quietly, without aggression, and knowing that the Lamb, whose blood was shed on our behalf, will protect us as we carry the Gospel of Christ into all the world.