In the face of growing ethnic diversity in our communities, as followers of Jesus, what should we do? In my Encourage article last week, I made several suggestions based on biblical principles, about our attitudes toward immigrants. Is there something we should do beyond being loving and kind? If so, what is it?
Changing our attitude toward immigrants is only the first step toward participating in God’s plan. For some, this first step may be the hardest one. In order to discover and follow God’s plan, we have to first accept those who do not look like us, or talk like us. Then, we need to be His messengers and agents of reconciliation to all the “nations” or people groups in our world. His purpose and plan go beyond being charitable toward the “sojourners” or “aliens” who live next door.
The next step of this immigration reform is embracing the “Great Commission,” What is the Great Commission? It is found in several places in the New Testament, and it consists of the words Jesus spoke to His followers after His resurrection, and just before His return to the Heavenly Father. Matthew’s record is the most well known.
“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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19, 20 ESV)
Mark and John also have similar versions, but Luke gave us the most detailed of the four. He begins with two disciples as they were headed home from Jerusalem after the Passover, and the horrible experience of Jesus’ crucifixion. They were despondent and discouraged because nothing made sense. They could not understand how Jesus death on a cross could bring about God’s Kingdom. Perhaps, they were still looking for an earthly king. The resurrected Jesus appears to them, and then to the entire group, leaving them with this command,
“And said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.“(Luke 24:46-48 ESV)
After giving them this command, He explained they would become His witnesses in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.” (Acts 1:8) And, then Luke puts a huge exclamation point on everything in the second chapter of Acts where he recorded what happened after the Holy Spirit came and empowered these believers to proclaim the good news of Jesus:
“And they were amazed and astonished, saying, ‘Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?‘”(Acts 2:7, 8 ESV)
This is the heart of the gospel. God, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, made reconciliation possible for everyone. He wants everyone to come to know His Son Jesus and ultimately to experience this reconciliation. His plan is for us to share the news of reconciliation to all those around us, regardless of their ethnicity or race. We are the ministers and messengers of God’s reconciliation!
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19 ESV)
I believe it is God’s plan for us to connect with our neighbors, and to engage them with the gospel, so that they too may become followers of Jesus. As we go, we are to “make disciples of all people” wherever we find them. This is our “Great Commission.”
I have a question for each of us. Will we accept our new neighbors, love them, and share the gospel with them as Jesus commanded? Will we be the ministers and messengers of reconciliation to all the “ta enthes” of our world?