Racism and the Great Commission
Racism and the Great Commission

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Old Prejudices Need to Die to Fulfill the Great Commission

Story by Pastor Ed Hickey, Calvary Chapel London in Ontario, Canada

Ed Hickey is Pastor of Calvary Chapel London in London, Canada (2 hours from Toronto and 2 hours from Detroit). Regularly he goes overseas to Asia and Africa to train pastors and disciple makers. He and his wife, Cheryl, also help to run a small orphanage of 70 children in Kenya.

Why am I a Great Commission Christian?

Pastor Ed HickeyIn the Book of Acts, some of the most revolutionary words were spoken by Peter, as some of the first non-Jews became believers in Jesus.

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. (Acts 10:34-35) Nation translates into Greek as ethnos, as in every ethnic group. Why were these revolutionary words?

First of all, Gentiles had been saved, which in and of itself was a momentous occasion. They were now a part of the Church, part of the family of God, citizens of His eternal kingdom, and recipients of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Secondly, going forward as the Church, Gentiles were to be permanently accepted into the Church as members and leaders, on an equal footing, which would have been an uncomfortable feeling for all those first-generation Jewish Christians; maybe even scandalous for many of them. After all, they had come from a background where Gentiles were on the same level as dogs. Even Peter had issues in processing and embracing it, which Paul wrote about in the Book of Galatians. However, if the Great Commission was to be obeyed and fulfilled, old entrenched prejudices would have to die.

So, why do I make the statement that I am a Great Commission Christian?

I love the Great Commission given to us by Jesus. It clears so much up for me as a believer and follower of Christ. In case you belong to one of the 51% of churchgoers that have never heard of it, or the 25% that have heard of it but can’t recall it’s exact meaning, or the 6% that aren’t sure (Barna poll, 2018), here it is from Matthew’s Gospel:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).

I draw your attention to the part where it says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” The word nations is ethnos, which is where we get the English word for ethnic. God has commanded the Church to go to every people group, every ethnic group, every “race” on this planet. To the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

What motivates us for the Great Commission?

Simply put, the Great Commandments: 1) Love God with all your heart. 2) Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-40). The Great Commandments always precede the Great Commission. Amazingly, all the Old Testament laws (all 613 of them) are summed up in these 2 commands. It is our God-given love which compels us to take His message to all people.

In fact, Jesus went even further in John 13:34-35 and said this: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” We have become anesthetized to the power and impact of this statement: a new commandment. That blows my mind away. We already had 613 in the Old Testament, so it must have been important to make this new distinction. However, this command had a new aspect to it. God Himself had come down in human form to be a profound illustration of how one human was to love all other humans. How? Jesus laid down His life through service (Phil. 2:5-7) and then sacrifice (Phil. 2:8).

The true proof that you are a follower of Jesus, committed to His teachings, following His example, is to live a life reflecting the sacrificial love that Jesus displayed.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,” (John 15:13). This is the distinguishing mark of the true follower of Jesus. It is the greatest form of love from one human to another and Jesus displayed it perfectly for us so as to follow in His footsteps. This is the path for the believer.

Ultimately, for the Great Commission Christian, we ought to have one final picture in our mind. It is seen in Revelation 7:9, After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands. Again, people from every nation (ethnos), tribe, people, and language around the throne of God, singing of the salvation found in Jesus. As the Church; this is our calling, this is our mission, and this is the heavenly vision of the Christian life.

If believers are heaven’s future citizens and its present ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20), we should reflect in the here and now a little of what heaven will look like. The earthly Church should somehow be a little foretaste of heaven. After all, God has given us a unique ministry, something no one else has, the ministry of reconciliation. The earthly Church should reflect that glorious picture of heaven with men and women of all sorts of differing ethnicities, languages, and social classes, united around Jesus, worshipping Him. The earthly Church should reflect that glorious picture of heaven, where people have been reconciled to God and also one another.

God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. You and I are God’s very representatives of this great salvation. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). If we have been reconciled to God, then we will also be reconciled to other believers. If we truly love God, we will love other people. We cannot be right with God if we are not right with people (1 John 4:20).

Our eyes have been stamped with eternity and as the old Puritans used to say, while on this earth, “We are to have heaven in our hearts.” Until then, the Church is heaven’s outpost here on earth. It is heaven’s embassy. It is a picture of hope and what will one day be a New Jerusalem on Earth, a shining city on a hill. As the Church continues to be salt and light here on earth, it is to be an example of that city on a hill (Matthew 5:13-14).

That is what I am committed to. That is what compels me to go to other countries around the world. That is what compels me here in my own city to get out and share Jesus. That is what gets me out of my comfort zone to like, to love, to befriend, and to invest myself in others from every ethnos around the world. Having and being committed to the theology of the Great Commission makes things crystal clear. And yes, to put it simply, it is all about Jesus. Jesus is the answer.

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