[Jesus said] “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, 20 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
Christians have come to know this passage as “The Great Commission.” The Church understands this text to be Christ’s missional command to proclaim the good news of God’s salvation so that all people might come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. Christ calls the Church to four actions, go, make, baptize, and teach. It has been my experience that the Church does a pretty fair job at expressing the go, make, baptize formula. But what of the fourth? What happened to teaching all that Christ commanded?
As part of my Lenten study, I have enjoyed revisiting a book I bought a couple of years ago. The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians by Thomas O’Laughlin is a book which explores the teaching document produced by the apostles following Jesus’ ascension. The longer original title of The Didache (The Teaching) is The Lord’s Teaching to the Nations through the Twelve Apostles. This document is rich with insight as to how the early Church lived according to “…all that I have commanded you.” (Matt.28:20)
In the Didache, the apostles teach the Church according to two ways; the Way of Life and the Way of Death, pointing out the mighty differences between the two. Our apostolic teachers offer up guidance concerning how the Christian community lives and thrives with one another. Concerns addressed include Baptism, Eucharist, meals, relationships, morality, community service, and the list goes on. Keep in mind, this teaching comes from the apostles, who in turn are following the command of Christ that they heard first hand.
Considering the role the Church has in society today, I can’t help but feel that somehow we need to rediscover this valuable teaching handed down to us from the apostles. Our world is in a mess, and all too often when the Church speaks out its teaching is viewed as outdated, irrelevant and out of touch. Yet, the apostles in their teaching address so many of the issues which surround the breakdown of our families and communities; greed, infidelity, divorce, abortion, child neglect and so on.
As we struggle with proclaiming the gospel to a fallen and broken world, it is crucial that the Church is faithful in its teaching, and crucial that such teaching is according to that which was handed down to the disciples from our Lord Jesus. There is a reason the teaching of the Church is rejected by so many worldly people, the Church is not called to look like the world. Rather, the Church is called to reflect the love of God in Christ Jesus for the sake of the world.
Reflecting this love means following the way of life as modeled by Jesus himself. Loving God with all our heart, mind and strength, striving to keep his commandments, and loving our neighbor as Christ loves us. In our congregations, communities and families, the Church has the responsibility of equipping people to follow Jesus, choosing the way of life over the way of death. The Church has the responsibility for building up husbands, wives, children, families and communities. This can only happen when those willing to share their faith actually model the faith. It can only happen as Church leaders are willing study the teaching of the Church which is handed down, so that others may come to know the good things of God. Looking at the condition of our society today, I’d say we have our work cut out for us.
Photo credit unknown