Growing up in Mexico as a missionary kid, I saw a lot of injustice in plain sight: villages of people living in poverty, barely making enough to live and living in unsanitary conditions. Through my travels in developing countries, I have seen people living in huts with trash surrounding their houses and the type of places where clean drinking water is a luxury for those who have had the fortune of getting an education and, therefore, a job.
In the United States, it may be harder to see, but if you look for it, the poverty and pain in our cities is great. I always wonder what Jesus would do about these types of situations. How would Jesus reach out to the vulnerable and poor people in my community and in the world? In past Church history this has been answered with the Great Commission in Mathew 28:19-20 “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.”
The simple way we have looked at this verse has been to evangelize around the world and send missionaries that are designated to share the Gospel. While this is not wrong whatsoever, maybe there is a more complex definition to “making disciples of all nations.” If we take Jesus’ example in Chapter 15 of Mathew, we see there can be more to making disciples than just evangelizing in the famous story of the feeding of the 5,000.
Jesus met the needs of his hungry followers without a stipulation of hearing a sermon. Just before that miracle by Jesus, in verses 29 – 31, He is recorded as healing many people also without demanding repentance. While there are plenty of instances of Jesus calling for repentance and for people to turn away from sin, He also worked through physical means to show His power. Maybe that means we as the Church should consider working through physical means to show His power as the body of Christ and consider that there is not only one way to best share Jesus to people. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” He continues to say in verse 28, “And God has appointed in the church first apostles second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” So, we have been given gifts to be the body of Jesus on earth. These gifts are diverse and, as Paul says, individual.
All of this is to say, maybe we should not be looking at the Great Commission as just sharing the Gospel in words. Jesus in his ministry on earth showed that He cared about the physical needs of people. God gave us all individual gifts to serve, help, and teach people. Jesus saw people as individuals, and addressing their needs in spiritual and or physical ways. As individuals we should look to our God given gifts and what God has laid on our hearts to be able to know how He wants us to reach a broken and hurting world. Let’s work to end injustice. Let’s work to end suffering and poverty in the world. Let’s work to restore dignity and share the love Jesus. Let’s work like Jesus.