Wednesday, August 31, 2022
Go into your community and all the world
Referencing Alan Kreider's The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, Paul Doerksen suggests the early Christians never did "outreach" at all, but "attracted people" to the faith by how they lived and cared for each other.
Added Gordon Matties, who formerly taught theology at CMU: "There is one main verb, an aorist active imperative, which is 'make disciples.' All the others are participles."
The context also helps us understand the verse better, he said, since it's clear from earlier texts in Matthew that the disciples will be harassed and will be forced to move.
"It's possible the 'going' isn't something they've chosen to do," he said. "It's something that is simply their way of life. So the translation 'as you go' makes sense, but it doesn't convey the passive very well. Perhaps it should be, 'as you're being made to go, make disciples," he said.
In his book The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, sociologist Rodney Stark suggested the Christian church grew because of how its members cared for each other - especially during epidemics that ravaged the Roman world.
Said Stark: "To cities filled with
the homeless and the impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well
as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced with epidemics, fires, and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services."
Maybe all Christians need to do
today is live in such a way others want to join them. After all, it seemed to work for the early church.