The Great Commission's Subversive Wisdom

Photo by  Kyle Glenn  on  Unsplash

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

The Great Commission of Jesus in Matthew 28 is what many of us evangelical Christians point to as our motor for action. We recall how the resurrected Jesus “said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore 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 that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’

It is a powerful conviction to any disciple of Jesus to go into the world and make disciples. This scripture is the basis for the mission statement of the UMC which says that we are “To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” The primary way of understanding this is that we are to go out to baptize, teach so that we may grow the number of followers of Jesus Christ.

However, the subversive wisdom of the great commission is not that other people are converted but rather that we are converted.

Before we can baptize and teach others about Jesus we have to go to all the nations. This going to all the nations has been used as a mission to conquer others. This is a misreading of the commission. We are not to conquer others. If we go into the nations then we would have to first leave our little nations - our bubbles of thought, theology, comfort etc.

To go to the nations means that we have to set aside ourselves, meet, befriend and come to love the ones who are not of our “nation”. When we leave our bubbles, when we leave our homelands of comfort, when we like Abraham set out to the lands unknown, we live by faith. Living by faith converts us.

Superficially the great commission is about spreading the message of Jesus Christ. However, the subversive wisdom in the commission is it is we who are converted because we discover how to love outside our nation (i.e. our enemies).