All Nations (part 4)

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Dec 03, 2009 by Alex Mekonnen | 0 Comments

Who are we discipling? All nations. There is no exclusive race or nation who would be exempted from this process. Jews, Greeks, Romans, Africans, Americans, Asians and Latinos, the wise and the barbarians, the rich and the poor, the educated and the illiterate must be discipled.

As human beings, we’ve the same nature, same spiritual problem, and same solution.

There is no single nation who claims to be the originator and custodian of the gospel. So is mission. It belongs to God. Whether we meet in a nice building or under a tree, whether we wear our Sunday best or come half naked or (completely naked like most of the Turkana people in Kenya) to worship, whether we give abundantly and generously or give a penny, whether we walk an hour or drive the latest car to a place what we call church on Sunday to worship our Lord, we are all disciples. The external social and economic condition of his children matters little to our heavenly father. When he said about Jesus, “this is my beloved son hear him”, Jesus had no material things to impress the Jews or Romans.

The tension between nationalism and universalism in the early church was very apparent in the New Testament texts, more so, in the book of Acts. The question of the apostles in Acts 1:6 “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” as I mentioned earlier was a national question. The apostles, who were Jews, were not ready for the redefined people of God which include the gentiles. They were eagerly ready for the gathering of the Jews from the Diaspora. But they were reluctant to go out to the gentiles, “to the end of the world.”  David W. Pao aptly summarized the tension of nationalism and mission this way: “…the primary concern of Isaianic New Exodus expressed partly through the question raised in Acts 1:6: ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ This Isaianic focus was transformed in the answer provided by the risen Jesus since the mighty act of God is now no longer focused on the return of the exiles but on the sending out of witnesses to the nations. This response of Jesus not only affirms the Isaianic New Exodus but also highlights the important reformation of this program in that the centripetal return of the exiles toward Zion is replaced by the centrifugal diffusion of the word to the world of the Gentiles” (Pao, 2002:229).

The inclusion of the gentiles (all nations) in the kingdom agenda was foretold by the Old Testament prophets.

The prophet Hosea declared: “I’ll call them my people, who were not my people and her beloved who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, you are not my people, there they shall be called the sons of the living God” (Hosea 2:23; 1:10). We the gentiles, whom this message is all about, should be careful of pride. We’re who we are and what we are merely by the grace of God. Isaiah boldly said: “I was found by those who did not seek me; I was made manifest to those who do not ask for me” (Isa.65:1).

Christianity is for all nations. Moltman rightly said:Christianity cannot be a family religion, a tribal religion, or the religion of a particular people or nation. It cannot be the political religion of a particular government or rule. If these religious forms develop, Christianity becomes so deformed as to be unrecognizable. Consequently Christianity is not dependent on family ties or tribal identity, on a community of fellow nationals, or on male clubs. With its message “to all nations” it reaches out for the faith of all and every human being, simply as human beings (Timothy Yates ed., 2000:19).

In the light of the concept of “all nations”, a missionary is a messenger of God merely because of God’s mercy and his abundant grace. Not because of the superiority of our culture or our race. “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake…we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 cor. 5: 5,7).

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