Deconstructing The Great Commission – Part Two

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‘To be a witness means to offer your own faith experience and to make your doubts and hopes, failures and successes, loneliness and woundedness, available to others as a context in which they can struggle with their own humanness and quest for meaning.’   --Henry Nouwen (Spiritual Direction)

I didn’t get a lot of response to my previous post Deconstructing The Great Commission  but here’s some rambling in response to one of the comments:

Ken Bussell pointed out that the verses associated with The Great Commission don’t say anything about “sharing the gospel” – instead the verses speak of making disciples and teaching them to obey Jesus’ commandments.  Thinking about that and taking into account what Jesus said and taught I start to get the sense that The Great Commission is not so much about converting people to a particular belief system but much more about teaching a way of life.  Of course it is easier to tell people what to believe than to show them how to live.  Living life is a lot messier – it often seems to pull the legs out from under absolute statements that belief systems are typically built on.  I notice that people were always trying to pin Jesus down about what they should believe about all sorts of things, but Jesus didn’t seem that concerned with absolute statements that could be spouted off.  In fact, it seemed that he went out of his way to show that life would more often than not turn those statements on their head.  Just when someone thought they were being obedient Jesus would demonstrate that their form of obedience violated the very essence of what he was all about.

I guess at this point I would say that I am getting a picture that living out The Great Commission is much more alive and fluid than traditional teaching conveys. 

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12 thoughts on “Deconstructing The Great Commission – Part Two

  1. Well, if you’re talking Roman Catholic theologians, over the past 2000 years “small cell or hermitage” fits much better than “hierarchy of men in ivory towers”. But besides that- even Paul said not everybody could be an apostle, some of us have other talents- and that “hierarchical structure” is quite apparent all the way back to the book of Acts, which gives them about a 2000 year head start on the words of Christ that you and I as laity simply don’t have.

    But what makes you believe there is a divide between the laity and the priesthood? We’re all a part of the body of Christ.

  2. Ted,

    i don’t believe in purgatory and do not see it referenced in the Bible but i respect your belief in it. G-D bless!

    Grace,

    the feeling is definitely mutual! i REALLY appreciate and love YOU! and your much needed voice!

    A

    • http://www.ourcatholicfaith.org/purgatory.html is a good discussion on the Biblical foundation for purgatory, but you are right, it has about as much “Biblical evidence” as that other unbiblical tradition, the Trinity. Neither are mentioned directly, both are good examples of why Scripture Alone is a really bad doctrine- because people can read anything they want once they are allowed the freedom to interpret scripture for themselves.

      • Thanks Ted! i will definitely read this as i am open to changing my views as i have done much in my life.

        i so agree with you when you said, ‘Neither are mentioned directly, both are good examples of why Scripture Alone is a really bad doctrine- because people can read anything they want once they are allowed the freedom to interpret scripture for themselves.’ with the caveat that i believe scripture can and must be wrestled with in community and not by a group of men in ‘ivory towers’, by which i mean spiritual leaders in a hierarchial structure. i believe there is no divide b/w laity and pastors/priests et al. i believe in the priesthood of all believers.

        Thanks for the dialogue!

        A

  3. Glad you are working through this, Grace.

    i really resonate with you and am in the same place when you said to Ted, ‘I chuckle a little when I read things like “why would we want someone in heaven who hadn’t first learned those lessons on Earth?” because I can hear myself saying that sort of thing at one point in my life – these days I don’t even know what I believe about heaven – or hell for that matter (even though I feel like I have a better idea of what scripture was referring to when it spoke of hell).’

    Ted, i really liked it when you said this, ‘I go with Pope John Paul the Great on this. Heaven and hell are states of mind. We can experience them on earth just as easily as in the Afterlife. But my point was- unless we first learn to live together in peace, unless we first learn humility and community, heaven can’t be heaven.’

    Thanks so much to both of you!

    EP

    • For reference- it was July/August 1999 when John Paul the Great spent four of his weekly Wednesday addresses on the Last Things. And he always defined heaven and hell in terms of community- Hell was being alone, outside of God’s influence, not because any man or even God had damned you, but because *YOU* had damned you…..God gives us every possible chance to be on his side, and all who say yes are going to make it to Heaven. Some of us may have to go to purgatory first to be wiped clean of our mistaken impressions and outright bigotries- but all those who go to purgatory have the assurance of salvation.

  4. Ted – I do think there is a possibility that we have collectively missed the point more than we have gotten the point – and I am concerned that I won’t get the point now either. Even when I hear the words “repent of sins” I am flooded with images of things I shouldn’t do and now after years of focusing on such things they seem rather insignificant and shallow.

    I am not bashing a particular denomination or sect of Christianity – I can find good and bad in all – I’m just trying to work through my beliefs, questions, doubts etc.

    I chuckle a little when I read things like “why would we want someone in heaven who hadn’t first learned those lessons on Earth?” because I can hear myself saying that sort of thing at one point in my life – these days I don’t even know what I believe about heaven – or hell for that matter (even though I feel like I have a better idea of what scripture was referring to when it spoke of hell).

    • I go with Pope John Paul the Great on this. Heaven and hell are states of mind. We can experience them on earth just as easily as in the Afterlife. But my point was- unless we first learn to live together in peace, unless we first learn humility and community, heaven can’t be heaven. For the individualist, the communion of saints is the ultimate definition of hell- it’s duty to other people, individual rights curtailed. For the communionist- duty to other people is the entire point, service is the greatest joy.

  5. What’s the difference? I don’t understand the difference between “a belief system” and “a way of life”- to me the two are completely interchangeable.

    Maybe it’s because I’m Catholic- to us, the way of life, the way of forgiveness, is what counts, it’s a universal meta-culture that covers a lot of local cultures. So in a way, my belief system IS my way of life. I guess also, because to us The Way, Holy Tradition, came first- the scriptures second, and primarily as a method of teaching The Way.

    • Ted – Sorry if I wasn’t clear – I was referring to the idea of Christians with the agenda of converting people to believe in Christian doctrine (particularly believing Jesus is God incarnate and that he died for our sins etc.) vs. Christians with the agenda of demonstrating and teaching how to create and live in communities that are committed to a way of life that is formed from Jesus teaching and his example (loving neighbor, serving others, caring for the least of these, being humble, kind, gentle, patient etc. etc. etc.). In other words, people who are not Christians could still live in the “way of Jesus”. Does that make sense?

      • In my tradition, the two go together. That’s why the Roman Catholic Church is often referred to as “The Builder and Protector of Civilization”- because where our missionaries went, civilization followed. Living together in communities is the entire point of conversion for us; why would we want someone in heaven who hadn’t first learned those lessons on Earth?

        I do kind of get what you mean- those “soul winning” third generation Protestant denominations. But if all you believe is that Jesus died for our sins, and you don’t need to repent of those sins, you’ve kind of missed the entire point, haven’t you?

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