The great commission is the “great omission” in most churches today.
In the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus commands His disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV).
The great commission is not a “take it or leave it” option for Christians. Many of us live in self-made Christian ghettos, never developing meaningful relationships with unbelievers. We believe that friendship with people in the world will somehow contaminate us. We avoid relationships of any depth with people outside the church and often are so busy with Christian activities that we have no time for others. It gets to the stage where we don’t know how to relate with non-Christians other than inviting them to a meeting. People see straight through our motives when we make them “projects” rather than developing authentic friendships with them. (pp 64-65)
One of the biggest challenges to living on mission with Jesus and becoming disciplemakers is Extractionalism – moving new Christians out of relationship with non-believers in the culture in order to foster new relationships almost exclusively within the church.
This fear of contamination that Felicity Dale writes about is alive and well in the American church. I received an email last week from a pastor who was passionately communicating with his church members the need for Christians to be separate from the world.
He asked some great questions: What does it mean to live a separated life? What does God want from you and me?
Here are some of his answers:
- God wants our purpose to be different.
- God wants our perspective to be different.
- God wants our lifestyle to be different.
- God wants our behavior to be different.
- God wants our friendships to be different.
- God wants our amusements to different.
- God wants our world-view to be different.
- God wants our values to be different.
- God wants our allegiance to be different.
He concluded with these words – God is looking for people who will“be separate” from this world. You and I need to stay far from the world’s temptations. You can’t play with fire! You need to separate yourself from the things, people, and activities that would entangle and ensnare you. We need to live apart from the world! We need to live like true Christians in everything!
Now – I wholeheartedly agree with his call for Christians to live differently than the world! Yet is he really calling us to “be separate” completely from the world?
(I take issue with his fifth point above when he states Joshua 23:7 and I Cor 5:11 as why we shouldn’t have friendships with non-Chrisitans. The verses in Joshua address the nation of Israel not worshipping the false gods of the nations among them. The 1 Corinthians passage is referencing friendship with believers who practice ungodly behavior, not staying away from non-Chrsitians.)
Think about Jesus while He was on earth. He was called a friend of sinners. How do you become a friend of sinners if you are trying to separate yourself from non-Christians? How do you actually make disciples of non-Christians if you don’t have any friends who are not Christians?
I understand that when you play with pigs, you might get dirty. I also know that when I change diapers and clean toilets, I also might get dirty. However, you can’t avoid contact with sinners and be obedient to the Great Commission.
But do you believe that the indwelling Spirit of God is incapable of providing you a way of escape when you face temptations because you are being friends with sinners? Isn’t the One who dwells in you greater than he that is in the world? Isn’t God faithful to not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able? Hasn’t He promised a way of escape?
If we are going to be serious about obeying the Great Commission, we have to choose to be friends with sinners!
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