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Commission or Commandment?

February 26, 2015

“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:36-40

We evangelicals love the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).   It is our marching orders, the center of our focus.  My church, the Evangelical Free, the Southern Baptists and many others focus much of  our efforts on reaching the unreached.

Yet I’ve always felt that the passage quoted above, The Great(est) Commandment, is the key to the Great Commission.  No matter how persistent, how urgent, and how clever we are in presenting the Gospel it will almost always fail to connect unless you have loved your neighbor (the one who you are trying to reach) as yourself.

It isn’t enough to convince yourself that you love them either.  You have to convince them that they are loved.  And that is never achieved by just telling them you love them, you have to show them.  And that can take a lot of time.  I once had a co-worker with whom I had a five-day-a-week relationship for over four years before she would even discuss things of faith with me.

In our evangelism we sometimes diagnose the “worldview” of the people we are trying to reach as being based on instant gratification.  We chide them for allowing near-term pleasures to obscure the need for a long-term relationship with God.  I’d like to propose that we are as prone to the desire for instant gratification as anyone else.  And I am not talking about the temptation of the things of the world.  Evangelism without all the messy bother of trying to build a relationship seems so much easier.  Regarding the Great Commandment we’d rather focus on the first part, loving God and claim that following the Great Commission proves we do.

I remember a good friend from years ago who always chided me on being reluctant to “stick in the needle.”  He would have thought my four-year relationship with my co-worker was crazy and best and cowardly at worst.  But to this day I feel that we need to be living the Great Commandment for as long as it takes to open the door to the Great Commission.

How about you?  Where does the Great Commandment rank in your outreach?


From → Christianity

  1. ‘Two themes converged in the Word.
    And we should be doing both.
    And that would make all the difference.’
    – David Pollock

  2. Our church concentrates heavily on the Great Commission. However, we also focus, I believe, equally heavy on the Great Commandment. We use this “clever” triangle to illustrate that our goals are to love God, follow Jesus, and share the kingdom. As much as my pastor loves the Great Commission, I firmly believe he has things in proper perspective. Things have to flow from loving God, at the top of the triangle, to following Jesus (which, we believe, also incorporates the loving our neighbor piece), to sharing the kingdom. If we try to go share the kingdom without doing the other two pieces first, it just falls apart.

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