The Great Commission is to “all nations.”
Usually in missions speak, this phrase refers to ethnolinguistic people groups. These groups go by a lot of names: tribes, nations, peoples, etc. And surely, there are no tribes, no people groups, no population segments that the church can leave out of this disciple-making mission.
Some people groups are harder to reach than others. Some are in far away places, and some are in countries that are closed to the spread of the gospel. These places persecute anyone who accepts Christ. This is one reason it is so significant God is bringing many of these unreached people groups and placing them in our communities in the United States.
But the phrase “all nations” also means “no exceptions.”
There is no room for preference or discrimination, no matter the culture, no matter the religion, no matter the nationality. Our call is to reach out for the rich and poor, for the downtrodden and the oppressor, for the victim and the terrorist. Because of the fall, all of us begin as enemies of God. However, the grace that melted the heart of that Jewish terrorist Saul is the same grace that changed our hearts and can reach into the vilest radically evil soul today. We must carry the banner of the cross to every people with no distinction.
I believe most of you are still with me at this point, but this is where I want to take a turn to application. Sometimes, we think this means that as long as we are sending some people to Africa, we are fulfilling this commission. Sending missionaries to Africa is good. I was a missionary in Africa, and I think some of you should probably go live there. However, sending a few people overseas or giving money to some missionaries is an insufficient response. All nations means all people, all places, with no exceptions. It means we send missionaries overseas, but it means we have a responsibility here too.
There are many people moving here that look nothing like you or me (and you and I may even look different). For many of these people, we simply want to slap the label “potential terrorist” on them and remove our obligation to witness. The irony is that these people are doing their best to escape the very terrorists we fear. A recent study stated that almost 80 percent of the some 11,000 Syrian refugees we have taken are children, by the way. Even if one slipped through somehow that did have the intention to harm us, the Great Commission makes no exception for him or her either.
But the people that I want to focus on in this post are the ones that look just like we do. They are ones that grew up in this country alongside us. They just disagree with us about everything we believe to be important. They disagree with us about who gets to use bathrooms and about the killing of innocent children in the womb. They disagree with us about issues of marriage and all kinds of other issues. They are the people we want to blame for ruining the country.
After an election season as nasty as this, we cannot forget that the Great Commission has no exception clause for people who disagree with us concerning the fate of our country. The rhetoric surrounding this election cycle has been at fever pitch, and people have said awful things to one another. People are mad on both sides of the aisle, and people are hurt on both sides too. The trust that Americans have for each other is perhaps at an all time low. The two main stage candidates have performed marvelously, if this were a professional wrestling match. That vitriol spills out into the American public, and our country may be more divided than it has been in a long time.
Yet, all nations includes our own, even the people who disagree with us on these very important things. There is no phrase built into the Great Commission that allows us to overlook people who anger us. There is no pass on extending love and grace to people who seek to do away with our past cultural hegemony. In fact, I believe the Bible tells us to love even our enemies. And that is really hard if the only thing you are willing to do is demonize the “other side”, whichever side that may be this election. We must look past platforms at the image of God found in others. Yes, even those with a progressive agenda are made in God’s image and in need of saving grace just like us. Realize that ours is a call to love without distinction.
Certainly, we can and should disagree with people on many issues today. They are, after all, important issues with biblical weight. Nevertheless, disagreeing does not absolve the command to love, to show mercy, and to be quick to share the only truly good news in the midst of all this vitriol. Of all people, Christians have every reason to reach out in hospitality to those who disagree. After all, are we not all simply sin-sick creatures in need of grace?