Monday, May 18, 2015

Reflections on Witnessing – II

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 18b – 20).

This passage has been known as “The Great Commission,” but I wonder whether we shouldn’t change it to “The Great Omission.” There was a time when much of the professing church acknowledged that Christianity is a missionary religion – its Founder was a missionary sent from heaven to earth, and he in turn sent his followers out into all the world. “Go” is the commission Jesus gave us; “stay” seems to be how we respond to his command.

Much teaching on witnessing begins with technique, but I think perhaps we should begin with repentance and confession of sin, confession that we have not obeyed our Lord’s command to “go” and “make disciples,” and repentance that entails turning from our disobedience in not witnessing to moving in the direction of witnessing. If we don’t think we’ve done anything wrong, if we don’t think we’ve been disobedient, it is problematic whether we’ll see the gravity of the situation – and the situation in the Western church is that we seldom share the Good News of Jesus with others. If witnessing is optional, then obedience to Jesus Christ is optional, and if obedience to Jesus is optional – well, he may be our superstar but he is not our Lord.   

While I will touch on other motivations and reasons to share Jesus with others, the issue of obedience is first tier – Jesus commanded us to go to others and make disciples, making disciples encompasses sharing Jesus Christ. The church of Jesus Christ is called to be missional, as individuals and as a people. As we saw in the last post on witnessing, in Mark Chapter Eight Jesus says that if we are ashamed of him then he will be ashamed of us – this is no light matter. The context of Jesus’ statement is taking up our cross and following him – the cross is an instrument of suffering and execution, he that would spare his life, he that would save his life – is not a person who will witness; but as Jesus asks in Mark Eight, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?”

I have seen people try to shame others into witnessing, to motivate them by fear, to lay man-made guilt upon them. That is inappropriate. On the other hand, the fact remains that when sharing Jesus Christ with others is not part of the fabric of our lives, individually and collectively, then the guilt of disobedience to Jesus is healthy and it is God’s desire that we come to him in confession and repentance. I doubt that a week goes by when I don’t find myself confessing and repenting because I’ve been too self-centered to share Jesus with others.

Within the Gospel imperative is to “go and tell” and to “love others.” I have ample opportunity to confess my sins of omission weekly for there are many times I could “go and tell” and I don’t, and there are many times I could “love others” and I don’t.

What about you?

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