Monday, January 28, 2013

A Tense Matter

Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
This verse is the mission conference’s mantra – as well it should be. But if you aren’t called to missions – long-term, foreign-field missionary work – then this verse, or the popular interpretations thereof, can conjure up feelings of guilt, shame and the idea that perhaps there’s something wrong with you if you don’t feel the pull to sell everything you have and live in an outside-your-box culture.
Where do those feelings come from? Well, aside from the fact that I think, perhaps sub-consciously, that’s part of the design and intent of said mission conferences, I have another idea.
Here’s a question – Would you feel any differently if the verse read like this: “Therefore, as you are going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”?
Well, at church yesterday, during the annual mission conference message, the pastor revealed at the beginning of his sermon that in the original text, the progressive tense is used – as you are going instead of go. As he went on using this verse in the ‘usual’ recruiting sense, encouraging people to search their hearts for the call of God to a long-term, foreign-field missionary work (which I’m not saying isn’t a good thing to do), I stopped listening and wrote down the revelations I got just from that little piece of word study.
To me, it makes so much more sense to say – as you are going – because then it actually applies to everybody in any situation every Christian finds themselves.
We are commanded to make disciples as we are going…
…to the grocery store.
…to work.
…on vacation.
…across town.
…to visit grandma.
…through the drive-thru.
It doesn’t necessarily mean we preach a sermon in all of these places. It might, but not necessarily. It means, listen for what God would have you do for Him and for His glory in every situation you are in all the time. It means step-by-step obedience to care for, love, invite, help, inform, pray for all of the people, saved or not, you encounter – whether across the world or in your back yard.
It also places the emphasis on your own behavior instead of pointing out the wrongs in others – avoiding that phrase non-Christians like to throw around these days – don’t judge me! The person you are encountering may or may not know the Lord, but your behavior should represent the fact that you do. Listening to God’s call in your life applied to every encounter directs your behavior so that you end up speaking the Truth in Love.
All of us are capable of immediately obeying the ‘mandate’ to make disciples as we are going. Listening and obeying is the key. Is He asking you to dedicate your entire life to digging wells in Africa? Then, do that. Is He asking you to go on short-term trips to assist victims of natural disasters? Then, do that. Is He asking you to invite your co-worker to church? Take food to an ailing neighbor? Email a friend to ask for forgiveness? Smile at the harried clerk behind the counter?
Then, do that.
Have a great week, Dry Ground friends!