2001-07-27 - The Great Commission
Basic Christian Beliefs, Part 6
"Live and let live." "Keep your faith to yourself." "Religion and politics should never be discussed." These are common beliefs in 21st-century America, even among some Christians who have not really studied God's word in-depth. But one of the last phrases uttered by our Lord before He ascended, was what has become known as "The Great Commission," instructing believers to share their faith and help to "grow up" Christians.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NAS) And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.''
Does this mean we are to insist on talking about Jesus when someone does not want to hear? Of course not. Christ Himself did not force Himself on anyone; you can't force someone to be a true Christ-follower. That is the Holy Spirit's work and the response must be from the heart. In fact, Jesus encouraged us to be gentle, not harsh:
Matthew 5:5 (NAS) Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
It's true that Jesus was at times forceful, but not as "witnessing." And his strongest languages was directed at religious leaders and those who were already Christ-followers.
But following the Spirit's leading, we are to do our part, lovingly sharing our stories of what God has done, whenever we have the opportunity. This is always to be done with respect and gentleness. Showing respect is not equivalent to condoning false doctrine of someone's erroneous beliefs. It simply means to treat people as valued creations of God, which is exactly what they are.
1 Peter 3:15-16 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
Christ never intended our faith to be a private matter. We are to fulfill our role in sharing the Gospel, whether it's telling someone what He has done for us, giving money to send to missionaries, doing evangelistic ministry ourselves or through some other means. There's a bonus; there is no purer joy than that of knowing we have helped bring someone to a saving knowledge of Christ.