Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
— Matthew 28: 18-20, NIV
If you’re a Christian reading this, you’d have memorized this by now. Every so often, pastors will chant these verses to encourage all to go for mission trips. Sunday school teaches children that we are called to “go” to people groups where no one has heard the gospel. You talk about it in AGM, on your choice of mission fields, and how God is calling the church to go to where you thought God called. And in your day-to-day lives, these very words echo in your head, telling you to spread the gospel to people you have never met.
We are all very clear about this. But, is this really what we are to do? Are we supposed to proclaim openly that Jesus is the only way to eternal life and everything else leads to hell? Are we supposed to convert the entire human race into a blind follower of this new trend called Christianity?
“Following Christ should be a decision founded on logic and personal experience.”
If we are, then we are getting it all wrong. This isn’t the love that God represents. Following Christ should not encompass threats of any kind. Following Christ should be a decision founded on logic and personal experience.
The Crux of Christianity
If you know the basics of Christianity, then you will discover that Christianity should not be looked at from the way social scientists look at other religions. Christianity transcends stories, history, and the physical realities of the world. Understanding the Trinity will open you to a world where things beyond the physical world can communicate with you to grant you a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Unlike other mystical religions that are founded on myths and/or gives you an out-of-body experience that will possibly haunt you, the God that Christians believe in is in fact, the God of all other (whatever that may be).
This God is the God of all truths, seen and unseen. He is the reason behind the existence of all things, seen and unseen.
It is for this reason that God requires us to seek Him objectively. Understanding Him without cultural or external influences will open us to the truths of His nature and the wisdom of His creation.
“The gospel of Christ is about the reconciliation of humanity to the One who created us.”
Sure, the salvation of Christ on the cross and resurrection is important. But ultimately, it is about the reconciliation of humanity to the One who created us in the first place. Hence, the starting point of emphasizing “sin” may cause unnecessary disturbance to people who are culturally insensitive or intolerant of such things. Worse, if you were to shove peoples’ ancestral beliefs aside and preach that all idols are the devil and only Christ is the way, won’t that cause people to stumble and reject the good news before they even hear it?
The Devil in God’s Plans
I think, the bottom line really is to recognize God’s sovereignty in all that ever is, was, and will be. Surely, God is with the tribe who kills all foreigners and eat their meat. Surely, God is also with the kidnappers who work tirelessly to arrest believers. Needless to say, God is also with the government who openly support the sin that is considered an abomination in Christianity. But what are we to say? God raises sinful cities to judge sinners, cleansing them for their latter repentance (refer to 1 Cor 5:5 or many other OT texts). Hence, if we were to say that the devil is against God, then he must be against God in a way that is for God.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
— Romans 8:28, NIV
“Idols are the servants of God, placed there for God’s good purpose.”
So, if we were to say that the devil is the servant of God, then surely idols are servants of God, placed there for God’s good purpose so that when the time is ripe, the eyes of the people may be opened to the Truth of God.
We have work to do
That said, that does not mean that we do not have to share the gospel. Of course, we must not leave out the portion about “sin”, “cross”, “Jesus”, “resurrection”, and “the promises of God”. But that does not mean that our focus is on that and that only.
Knowing Christ gives us the added advantage to rest in the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7), to find strength in God’s joy (Nehemiah 8:10), and to enjoy the feast before enemies (Psalms 23:5). It is this knowledge that allows us to not worry for our needs (Matthew 6:25), living a life of service towards others (John 13:14-17), and to provide for the needs of the community (Matthew 25:35-36).
Surely, it is a life of sacrifice (Romans 12:1) that we are talking about. It is with this mentality that we must live our lives, maximizing our gifts to serve the needs of others (Romans 12:3-8). Through this, our lives will be different from the rest of the world. It is with the soaking of God’s words and the constant meditation of God that will renew our mind (Romans 12:2).
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
— John 13:35, NIV.
People will look at you and recognize the differences in your lives. People will look at you and see Christ within you. People will look at you and say, “I do not know your God, but I will want to know Him because you’re different”.
“Because of your love towards the community, people will look at you and say, ‘I want to know your God’.”
It is then we start to teach, tactfully, as ambassadors of a kingdom that is not of the world (2 Corinthians 5:20).
When the door is open, do not put your lamp under the bowl. Put it on the stand to light the house (Matthew 5:15).
But if the door isn’t open, you hold onto the love of God to love them so that they may recognize that we are truly from God.
We love because God first loved us.