Christ & The Nations

Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission

16 But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated.

17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”[1]

Make disciples of all Nations…what are we looking at?

Some of todays’ headlines read, ‘Make America great’, ‘United Kingdom separates form Europe’, ‘Rise of Nationalism’, it is the world as we know it. Some would say it’s the increase of modern tribalism, I am of this and not of that, I belonged to this group, not that, ours is better than theirs, us and them all the same root, politically, national or religiously.

Nationhood and identity have become large in peoples mind and the evidence are all around us. For many years what is Britishness has been a debate only fuelled once again with the rise of the 4 nations of the UK looking at separation sovereignty. I’m not sure if it is a cry for belonging or control and dominance, time will tell, probably both.  

I’m Welsh, I could not speak a word of English until I reached the double figures in age, so I’m told, or British or both or adopted South African having a permanent residency status to our beloved South Africa. Who am I? Who are you? Perhaps I should have included my Heavenly Citizenship as well. Therefore, I am a Christ-follower that has residence on Earth or Welsh who happens to be British or even UK born that holds a South African residency or yes to it all? I wonder how you would describe yourself, by your culture, by your language, by your colour or by nation, place of birth?

One of the great plights within our world is the refugee or migrant movements that now face us with millions on the move, which we are told with the climate issue this is only going to grow due to soil conditions, millions under enforced migration due to political, safety and economic reasons.

Population figures inform us that at least 79.5 million people have been forced from their homes and 26 million of these are under 18 (UNHCR). With all this movement I wonder what will be and what is Nationhood, what are Nations?

As a follower of Christ, we are probably impacted by some ‘lockdown’ process and are more aware than ever of the practical challenges to our practice of faith, on the one had much work in a food bank or similar to help but how do we practice faith as in the past. Perhaps we have realised the fundamental need to move from the entrapment of ‘platform celebrity’ forms of ecclesia (church) and the performance effort of each Sunday or whenever you meet to realize we do need to discover discipleship in life and all it entails.

Now as an aside before someone points a finger and goes off on one that I don’t believe in the gathered church, that is so far from the truth. I believe fully and am part of the ecclesia of God, however, I do see the liberty to express a people and community determined by culture and social expression, what does that mean it is not one pattern fits all, the body should be expressed diversely without feeling deficient if I don’t follow a pattern. In other words, the pattern is unimportant it is the life expressed, the life of God, from God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and through each person that is central, Christ central in it all. I see the church, the ecclesia as being a fluid, flexible community that fills wherever the people of Christ are, that fluid and flexile dynamic people group expressing Christ, living Christ, being incarnate to our world.  

The ecclesia is the apple of God’s eye, the vehicle of the Kingdom, the magnificent manifold wisdom of God expressed with no predetermined form or shape, Christ expressing. A community that seeks to inform our world and creation that God has a purpose and goal while sharing in and declaring God’s dream. A group of people with a relationship that brings about a changing world, including creation. A Nation from every tribe and tongue.

Now back to my reason for writing on Nations.

In reading Matthew 28:16-20 we are borough to an awareness of the Great Commission to disciple the Nations, I suggest this is not the one-to-one but something greater and grander is hidden hear. Not to say that bringing an individual through to Christ and beyond is nothing more than magnificent.   

How can I open this up, by firstly stating Christ came to bring back the Nations to their rightful place and this is why Nations are to be affected by our discipleship.

Matthew 28:18 has Jesus announcing, “All Authority Given To Me In Heaven & Earth”, but why “All Authority”?

Sadly, today many have reduced ‘faith’ to personal gain and advancement, to achieve their destiny and goal without reference to the dream or goal of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The gospel, our faith has much greater implications than this, a self-help environment.

God from the beginning has been after a family within the ultimate grand plan and at a significant time the children of God will be govern angels, that is on the final coming together of heaven and Earth the ecclesia will become those who will onwardly govern take responsibility for on God’s behalf, fully expressing the image and likeness of God. Unfortunately, many have never heard this and only see the cross redemptively from humanities perspective as a secure ticket to ‘heaven’. They only hear the instruction that is about the supply of personal need whatever that might be. However, within God’s scheme, a dream of a family, but you say God does not have dreams, it is only used as a figure of speech as God only really has a conclusion, a culmination not a dream which has still to fully manifest, arrive this is yet to fully come, but I can dream of it.

 To disciple the Nations, it is necessary to see that the redemptive resurrection of Christ was to redeem the Nations, bring them back into the family and authority of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Christ’s authority was to remove the gods of nations, the authority that direct and controls nations now bringing the Nations into the disciplining of Gods people.   Isaiah 3:3 along with Mic 4:2 is another way of saying the Nations being discipled. All authority was to remove the lesser authorities bring then back to God and a fruitful garden within the authority of God Father, Son and Holy Spirit, returning to the family of God.   

The resurrection powerfully reverts the dividing of the peoples at what the biblical narrative calls Babel, the dividing of people by language. The story of Babel was not about languages, but the outflow of language was the outcome of the authorities over nations. As Deuteronomy 32:8 outlines that the peoples were set boundaries according to the unseen world, the sons of God. Christs’ resurrection was so far-reaching that redemption came to people, creation and the unseen as well as the Nations. Through the scripture, we have glimpses of all this, the unseen realms, the authorities over nations controlling and governing in different ways (Daniel, Psalm 82) Christ brought back the Nations to their rightful God. We see it demonstrated at Pentecost, it was not just about languages, drunkenness, falling over but the reversal of the authority set at Babel the one language of God brings back the Nations. Our Gospel has a Nationhood implication woven into it.

The New Testament writers understood this, Paul especially with his call to the Gentile world, was not in opposition to the Jewish world, it was the commission Jerusalem, Judea, and the nations beyond that Paul took up as he understood the resurrection was bringing back the Nations just as we have today to disciple the Nations, it is the resurrections narrative. In Romans 15:23-28, we find Paul eager to go to Spain, more than that he had to go. Why well in the list of nations at Pentecost Spain was the only nations not mentioned there that was under the then known world and rule of Rome so Paul had to reach as he understood Christ redeems nations to God, therefore, he must fulfil it.  

The Redemption of the Nations is part of our Gospel.

As followers of Christ, we too have a desire to see Nations instructed from dominant authorities to God, a self-emptying authority. I wonder today would we see the nations not only ethnically but in terms of business, art, media where people are finding their identity?

You have been called to bring Nations back to the garden of God, to the garden city of God back to the ’All authority’ of Christ. Discipling people and Nationhood more exact from every tribe and tongue correcting Babel and bring all back to the family of God. We are redeeming Nations and should be at every level it is correcting and removing authorities as we learn to be in union with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Eyes wide open…but not seeing, talking past each other

The day started so well people agreed and we moved forwards, then there was a difference and everything, all effort got focused on the difference. The debate got heated as the time when on, the views grew further and further apart and from a good start there seemed to be an impasse, at that point  it then becomes personal. People began to listen not to hear but just retort, answer, yet the answer was affirming their position, the aspect of listening was out and attention was focused on the response rather than listening. It is always a danger when listening to hearing migrates to getting answers.

When disagreements occur, people usually talk past each other, find others who agree with their view or worst still, their worldview and then sit in their corners dispensing memos that say little of value.  

As a child I am sure you recall walking around the schoolyard chanting to gain a group around you “Who wants to be in my gang, my gang”,  the chant, these words even got captured in a popular song years ago which tells me of how regular it happened.

The messages and memos only reinforce the worldview of that person or group and the world is considered a little ‘safer’ because of the security sensed within that worldview. Unfortunately, because of entrenched world-views, little real communication and change is possible around issues of critical importance in any setting.

A worldview is not ‘the way we look at the world’, it is ‘the lens through which we see the world’. Most people are not aware that they are looking through the lens of ‘worldview’. 

I wear spectacles and number of months ago I got new spectacles and at first, I could not see correctly through them, one reason for this suggested it was due to the change of shape of the lenses and  I needed to get used to them, which seemed plausible. However, after 24 hours of struggle I returned to the optician only to discover they had put one lens in upside-down. The lens has given me a view which admittedly was in focus until I tried reading with them, the lens were sight focus but when it came to reading rather than reading at the bottom of the lens the reading view for one eye was at the top and the other eye at the bottom of the spectacles. It was my view, not correct, not quite in focus, could only see one or two words on a page not the whole view.

Each of us have lenses over our eyes which create the world we look at, it is our world view.  

If we are unaware of that lens, then we are hard-pressed to ‘see the world as it is’. The lens has coloured and distorted our view of reality.

The narrative of the scripture is introducing us constantly to encounters and events that bring about changes in our views. I would even suggest that repentance in truth is a world view change this ‘metanoeo’ the Greek world the turning of one’s mind and direction, to adopt another view is a major necessary world view change. Many narratives outline a worldview change yet one that may help us at this time is in the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. The story introduces us to a man named Cornelius, a middle-ranking army officer, with 100 men under him, described as a ‘devout’ man who ‘revered God’. In other words, he worshipped Yahweh, but had not gone through the ritual of circumcision to identify himself as ‘fully Jewish’. God directed Cornelius to summon Peter who lived in Joppa, some 33 miles away.

The whole story shows how dedicated Peter is to his ‘worldview’, which is one of being ‘Jewish’ as he understood. But Peter’s vision from God ends up reforming the lens through which he sees his world with the ‘pagans’ who are not to be interacted.

Tom Wright puts it in his Acts for Everyone commentary:

At this point, we must remind ourselves of one of the basic points about the Jewish food laws. It wasn’t just that the Jews weren’t allowed to eat pork. There was a whole range of meat which they were forbidden; they are listed (for example) in Leviticus 11, and were much discussed by later generations. And these food laws, whatever their origin, served to mark out the Jewish people from their non-Jewish neighbours, a rule reinforced by the prohibition on Jews eating with non-Jews, sharing table fellowship. The reasoning was clear: the people you sit down and eat with are ‘family’, but the Jewish ‘family’ has been called by God to be separate, to bear witness to his special love and grace to the world, and must not, therefore, compromise with the world.

This an astounding story suddenly a confrontation of a blunt reality that his worldview about what it means to be ‘part of God’s family’, along with the realisation that he needs changing. Peter responds in his realisation of God in daily life and says: Peter took a deep breath and began.‘It’s become clear to me’, he said, ‘that God really does show no favouritism. No: in every race, people who fear him and do what is right are acceptable to him. He sent his word to the children of Israel, announcing peace through Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all!. Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all!

In this thought of Jesus Christ as Lord of all a new worldview has happened, Lord within a Jewish worldview is one thing but Lord of all!

This brings us to how important it is to look at how ‘World-views’ work. If we don’t understand these concepts, we will continue to think we ‘see the world’ as it is rather than through the ‘lenses’ we all have.

Social scientist and behavioural scientist tell us that worldview is a combination of Narrative, Automatic actions, Symbols, and Questions. 

How these are defined and how they interact tells us about what makes up the ‘lens’ of how we see things. 

Bluntly, this is the ‘bias’ we all have, the bases of every decision, the root of every action, even every comment and conversation. 

If our worldview is a ‘Christ Centred worldview’, then we are doing well at becoming the New Creation people. If we reveal aspects of our worldview that are less than God intends, then we must change our minds ‘metanoeo’, that is repent, truly adopting another view, which is, at its essence, a ‘changing of the mind’.

Peter is convinced that the Jewish story properly describes what being a follower of Yahweh looks like. This is the reason for his reluctance of ‘listening to God’, his invoice initially’ It actually affected Peter’s ability to accept people, especially these Gentile followers of God as being a part of God’s family, this is opposite to what he ‘knew’ regarding God.

Convinced that dietary laws part of his automatic actions that are part of the ‘way’ a person lives is necessary. Symbols circumcision, eating ‘unclean foods’, even how can I welcome a Gentile into my house, which means not part of the family of God?.

The demonstration of the change of worldview happening in this story is demonstrated by a new symbol inviting the household Peter stood in, Peter asks for water to baptise Cornelius and welcomes an alien into God’s family. 

A powerful narrative of not just difference or change but world view transformation 

Now our challenge is this, every one of us live with and sometimes under our worldview, the question is will my worldview enable me to travel along the journey of life to see reality through Christ-like eyes? Does my lens give me the right view or just a say lens was upside down do I need to correct, could be just slightly?

We all have lenses through which we see the world, I need your lenses made known to transform my lens. You assist me to transform my world view in your difference so I can see more clearly. I need your lens you need mine so we can find Christ-likeness together.

Help me to change my lens, that is mentanoeo, change my mind because my world view does not represent how God would have me to see the world. How about you?

Corporately finding a worldview to be one new body. Let me close in saying I would not throw away my past as it got me to today but I would pray and ask we see the future as coming from God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the eternal Kingdom of God. Not my personal view or church structure view but letting Christ invade us to see with a Christ-centred world view. Let us help one another.