I often write about how different our western Christian thinking is from the Hebrew way of thinking in which the Bible was written. One example of this is our paradigm of community. In Hebrew or Middle Eastern thinking the village, the clan is always considered to be more important than the individual. It’s a world where personal rights are sacrificed for the benefit of the community. Our western paradigm of community is diametrically opposed to this biblical perspective. In our culture we sacrifice community/family for personal achievement and personal interest. Here in the West, we have evolved into the Society of self, which has further evolved into the gospel of self. One might think this difference of viewing community makes little difference in the scheme of things, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This difference greatly changes the way we approach the scripture, and ultimately, it changes our understanding of scripture.
Here is one example of what I’m writing about. If you are a christian, you probably are familiar with the great commission where Jesus states, “Go make disciples.” In our western thought we understand Jesus saying go DO something. Go make disciples. Just reading those words are creating stress and/or guilt in your life. Yet, I don’t believe that was Jesus’ intent.
We break the commission of “go makes disciples” into two separate distinctions of “evangelism” and “discipleship”. We make Jesus’ command to “go make disciples” personal, as another task to add to our already many tasks we must do. So we go door to door seeking to conform people into Christ followers. We invite neighbors over for a back yard cookout so we can talk to them about following Jesus. We have church-wide campaigns designed to invite our friends and neighbors in hopes they will accept Christ and join our church. We put the pressure on ourselves to “save the world”, or live with the guilt that we should save the world. I lived this way for many years. I lived with the feelings of failure, thinking I should have witnessed to that person. And I know many christians who feel the pressure to “go do” and the guilt of not doing enough.
But what if Kingdom of God thinking is not about doing, but about being. What if the Kingdom of God mind, “making disciples” is a seamless continuous way of living in fellowship with the Spirit were God’s heart fills our heart and we see ourselves and others differently. What if Jesus meant when he said “go make disciples” to just be a disciple of his love encouraging others as you share your life with them? What if It’s not about a task, but a communal way of living in the context of family and friends.
In our way of thinking there is great pressure to perform, to do. In Jesus way of thinking the pressure isn’t to DO, but to BE. It’s not go transform the world, it’s be transformed in the world. Our western thinking aims to convert/save our neighbor, the Jesus way of thinking aims is to be a neighbor. Do you see the difference? The goals isn’t to see how many people we can get to pray a prayer, the goal is to pray for the many people we know. The purpose isn’t to grow our church, the purpose is to grow myself.
The gospel isn’t about tasks, it’s about intimate fellowship with God where my heart is radically changed and my life reflects that change. The great commission is discovered through that transformation where we, like the apostle Paul can say - “follow me as I follow Christ.” Paul’s statement wasn’t about him doing a task, it was about others knowing how to follow Christ by watching and interacting with him. The way we obey the great commission is by allowing God’s heart for others to become our heart for others. The way we live out the great commission is to see and treat others as our brother or sister. It’s not a task thing, it is a US thing!