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Friday, June 10, 2011

The Earthiness Of The Great Commission

To be cured of SSD [the Sacred-Secular Divide], it helps to take another look at the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Revisiting the Great Commission is a healthy thing to do now and then, because it defines the missional identity of the Church.

The Great Commission has a very “earthy” focus. That is, its focus is more on the here-and-now than life-hereafter. Yet, as a child growing up in the church, I translated it this way: “Go everywhere to save souls, so people can go to heaven when they die.”

The Great Commission doesn’t say “make converts,” although baptism certainly implies this necessary step. What it says is: “make disciples.” It doesn’t talk about teaching people to ask Jesus into their hearts, but “teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you.” This observation takes place on Earth, as we are "going."  

In the Great Commission, Christ doesn’t say, “I’ll see you in heaven,” but “I’m with you on earth—‘till the end of the age.” It is the earthiness of the Great Commission that links it so powerfully with the First Commission of Genesis 1:26-28. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 focuses on what happens here, where God wants His will to be done—as it is in Heaven. Jesus is Lord of both realms at once [v. 18].

God has an earthly intention for human beings, and this intention is stated in the first chapter of the Book: to rule over all creation. This involves flying helicopters in logging operations, managing salmon, manufacturing light bulbs, designing software, cutting hair, rearing children, and making breakfast.

The Great Commission is about people everywhere [all nations] observing all He has commanded, in the context of wherever we go. For half our waking hours, this is where we work.

One of the best writings I have seen on the unity of the two commissions [the First and the Great] is in Chapter 6 of Liberating the Laity, by R. Paul Stevens: “Because man failed to keep the first mandate [Genesis 1:26-28], God gave us in Jesus the missionary mandate [Matthew 28:18-20]…But what is seldom understood is that God gave us the second mandate in order to restore the first…We are saved in order to fulfill God’s original intention.”

This leaves no room for the Sacred-Secular Divide.

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