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And Then There Was Silence

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Commission or Commandment?

Sorry to post again and clog up your friend's pages, but I had a thought and wanted to share it. I'll stick it behind an LJ cut so it wont take up too much space.

I'm sure you're at least partly familiar with the verses I mean, Matthew 28,
16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

and the Great Commandment in Matthew 22, Luke 10, Mark 12 of loving your neighbour as yourself. Romans 13 puts it as such:
9The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."

and we shouldn't forget that many of the laws are also feeding the poor, widowed and orphaned. Giving generously. Doing things that disadvantages yourself for the benefit of others.

So now I come to Left Behind (again)(man I love this blog).
"I wake up every morning," [LaHaye] says, "and I see this beautiful place, and that drop-dead gorgeous view of the mountains, and I think, 'This is fantastic.' Because God is faithful." How does he reconcile that with Jesus' injunction to sell all you have and give to the poor? "I can accomplish far more from my present lifestyle and the giving that I do to Christian work," he says. "If I just sold everything and gave it to the poor, I can't see where that would advance the gospel as much as I'm doing." But wouldn't it advance the poor? "Well," he says, "you know how much I pay in taxes?"*

Fred Clark, the Slacktivist blogger gets into some questioning about where LaHaye's priorities are, which gets me thinking about mine.

I'd thought for a while now, that one of the most loving things I can do is share the gospel with people, because it's an eternal matter. Things of this world are only going to pass away anyway. But that's not true. While it is loving to do this, it is not by far the most loving thing to do. The most loving is to love my neighbour. And how do I do this? By giving generously, by helping the poor, widowed and orphaned, etc. I think I've been getting the great commission and the great commandment confused. I don't think I've been doing one to the exclusion of the other, but I think it's good to set my priorities straight anyway.

I've had a few conversations with greygnome about my mission trip which has already helped to put me straight on a few things. That is, even if my trip to Japan results in no one becoming Christian, my trip is not a waste. If I could feed all the hungry in the world and no one came to Christ because of it, it is still not a waste of time/money/food. Because in doing that, I would have obeyed God when he told me to love my neighbour. Now I hope that in doing it, it would have opened up doors to talk about Jesus, but it should never be a condition of the massive feeding event.

In any event, it's the work of The Spirit to cause our efforts to bear fruit. What God requires of me is to obey his law and be faithful. He will bear the fruit of my ministry. If he says that there will be no fruit, then at least I've been faithful. :) If I tell all the hungry about Jesus and no one responds to it, then that isn't waste of resources either. I hope that there will never be a situation where I have to choose between talking about Jesus and feeding the person I'm talking with. But if there is, perhaps it's more loving just to feed them.

I think, in the letters of Paul, he writes more about showing love than spreading the Gospel. And maybe, in showing love, we are spreading the Gospel, the good news of generosity that is ultimately provided by God, shown in Jesus on the cross. And so I think I've grasped it. Showing love is showing the Gospel. Just look at Titus 2
1You[Titus] must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. 2Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

9Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

15These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.


*Gates, David. (2004) "The Pop Prophets" Newsweek

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Congratulations. More than anything else the actions of you and a few other christians, who are intelligent and good people and didn't preach to me unless I asked questions, made me take a look at your faith much more seriously.

I hope you enjoy your time in japan

(Deleted comment)
it took a little while to get there though. :D This post really was the whole thought process and I didn't even get the point until I'd written it at the end. lol. Then it all clicked.

I agree. Even if no one in Japan comes to God through you, you're still doing what God wants.

And at any rate, you never know what seeds you'll plant that may come to bloom in years to come :)

It is extremely important to remember, especially in mission work, that sharing the Gospel must not come at the expense of meeting felt needs. I would disagree strongly, however, with the idea that meeting those needs is in fact the most loving thing you can do. You could feed and clothe and house an entire unreached people group, but if you leave them still unaware of Jesus, then you have ultimately accomplished nothing. They will stay alive a bit longer, yes, and perhaps even with a much better quality of life than before. But eventually they will die, still facing an eternity without God. Any atheist can feed the hungry and impact the minuscule length of earthly life; only Christians can share the good news that impacts eternity. Loving others as you love yourself must include concern (and action!) with respect to salvation. You loved yourself when you accepted the salvation our Lord offers. How, then, can you truly love others as yourself without telling them about Jesus Christ?

But you are certainly correct that to preach the Gospel to the exclusion of meeting felt needs is not wholly loving, and doesn't indicate a life truly lived in Christ. The truth is, the two cannot be separated one from the other if we are truly following Jesus, because our actions will match our words, and the words will be the joyful reason for our actions.

And if we are truly following and obeying, there will be fruit. There is no Biblical example of a true disciple not bearing fruit, though there are examples of fruitless false disciples. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22 that he has become all things to all men so that he might save some. He recognizes that not all will respond to the Gospel, but also that some will. I think the only way you will return from a mission trip without saving some (whether you actually see it or not) is if you fail to tell them about Jesus. Which is the most UNloving thing any Christian could do.

You could feed and clothe and house an entire unreached people group, but if you leave them still unaware of Jesus, then you have ultimately accomplished nothing.

I can think of no situation that meant I couldn't do both in some way. If a hypothetical unreached people group insisted that I could only help them without mentioning Jesus - then they still know a little about Jesus and that I'm representing him. Thus, by feeding and clothing them, I'm providing an example of Him through my actions. So that would perhaps accomplish something. I hope that whatever I do and say, people will know that I'm a Christian and willing to talk about Jesus. Even if I don't get an opportunity to actually talk about Him, they know I'm willing.

There is no Biblical example of a true disciple not bearing fruit

I think that is because it's in the Bible and the New Testament records times of unparalleled growth in the church. There are some times and areas where church growth just doesn't happen. There's a couple in Jordan who set up a clinic to eradicate TB in a particular area and open up opportunities to spread the gospel. While God has blessed their medical work, they have yet to see a single Christian as a result of their gospel work. The reality of missionary work is that sometimes people are not converted. Most of the time, this happens to first generational missionaries (first ones there), but then by the second generation, movement is happening. We, by our actions and deeds, cannot will the Holy Spirit into action. No matter how faithful we are. We can pray that we may sow seeds and open up people to listen, and we can be willing and eager to engage people in conversation about Jesus and follow through when the opportunity comes, and we can be generous with ourselves, but we cannot bear fruit by our own deeds and words.

My post was processing the idea that sometimes when I'm comfortable in my situation and think that telling people the gospel and doing the occasional good deed is enough, it isn't and maybe I've got it the wrong way around. It was in response to Tim LaHaye's worldview that being a law abiding citizen and then sitting back and writting books about how much he judges people is apparently ok. In this letter to the editor, he laments the tragedy that befalls "our enemies" and then expresses gladness that they wont go to Heaven because they'd "ruin it for everyone." His response is ludicrous and so are his books!

So I concluded that we have a responsibility in spreading the gospel, and we should be joyful in doing it. But it should never come at the expense of showing kindness to our enemies and generosity to those who need it, even if they are hard-hearted to the gospel (In fact, especially if they are! Because we are loving them despite their sin, which is precisely what Jesus does), which is what you already said in your opening sentence. What I am saying is that sometimes (in my hypothetical above) it is the only way we can share the gospel and sometimes (pretty much always) the best.

Also, of course I'm willing and eager to tell the Japanese about Christ! But if no opportunity comes up for me to do that, then I'd hope that at least I'd have been willing and able. In fact, given my terrible language skills (theology in Japanese!?!?), I probably wont get much of an opportunity. But I'm willing to learn and to do what I can. Most of what I do will probably be with people who are already Christians and who speak some English. Is that a waste? Of course not! Who knows what God has planned and what his intentions for my trip are!?

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