GOD'S LOVE: THE COMPELLING FORCE OF CHRISTIAN MISSIONS

Star (1)
Fourum
Winter 2000
PAGE 8
[original publication]

Novelist Reynolds Price claims that Jesus' teaching "has resulted in the most far-reaching movements of mercy, tolerance and human freedom..." ("Jesus of Nazareth: Then and Now," Time, Dec 6, 1999, p. 94). For this reason he also asserts that Jesus' words in Matthew 11:28-29, "Come to me," offer the old welcome. Even though Price professes that Jesus cured him from cancer, he cannot accept Jesus' final instruction to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20. In his opinion, "that last command goes on contributing heavily to the evils of national and religious warfare, institutional and individual hatred, imperialism and enslavement...".

Under the banner of love and human freedom, Price and others plead for cultural diversity and religious inclusiveness. Since they consider all Christian missionary efforts to be at odds with religious pluralism, they call for an end to Christian missions.

An important argument against the current call for ending Christian global missions is the intrinsic Scriptural link between God's love and his disciples' permanent obligation to disciple the nations in the period between Christ's first and second coming. A principal reason for continuing the commission to preach the gospel "to the ends of the world" and "to the end" is that the missionary enterprise is not only a natural response to Christ's royal edict (Mt. 28:18-20), but that it is also rooted in God's persistent love for his creation (John 3:16) as that love manifests itself in redemptive history.

Jesus accepted his mission. Because of Christ's loving obedience, God reconciled himself once for all to the world (Col. 1:20; 2 Cor. 5:18) by making peace through Jesus' blood, shed on the cross (Col. 1:20) and by "not counting men's sins against them" (2 Cor. 5:19).

So that the nations might participate fully in the blessing promised to Abraham (Gal. 3:8), Jesus, the seed (Gal. 3:16) and the son of Abraham (Mt. 1:1), also sent his disciples into the world (John 17:18; 20:21). He empowered them with the Spirit to declare God's pardon of sins (John 20:22-23). Consequently, the disciples' commission is based on the connection between God's sending his Son into the world and the Son's sending the disciples into the world.

A significant corollary of the sequence of sendings described above is that discipleship and mission are inseparably connected. Jesus called disciples to make them fishers of men (Mk. 1:17 par.). Jesus' invitation to come, to take up his yoke and to learn from him in Matthew 11 and his final command in Matthew 28 to go, to make disciples and to teach cannot be split apart. Those who have taken up Jesus' yoke and learned from him will make his last command their first concern.

God's gracious forgiveness and reconciliation require one to participate in the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18) because of Christ's compelling love (2 Cor. 5:14). To impress this requirement on the minds of their members, local [churches] should impress upon their members Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 9:16: "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" Since God's love compels us to make disciples, I urge [churches] to increase its world missions outreach in the new millennium. Each one should reach one!