The Presence of Christ (Part 6)
Feb 04, 2010 by Alex Mekonnen | 0 Comments
I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Mathew started his gospel by heralding the birth of Jesus Christ and the difference his dwelling among people brings in terms of our relationship with God. Tracing back to the prophet Isaiah, he said; “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means God with us” (Matt. 1:22-23). In closing of his gospel, Mathew gives us affirmation and promise of Christ’s presence saying; “…I will be with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mathew 28:20).
It is difficult to fully comprehend this promise without going back and reflect on the Old Testament theology/covenant. For the nation of Israel, the presence of God among them was their distinct identity. When God refused to go with the Israelites and wanted to send angel on his behalf, (Exodus 33:1-5). Moses did not accept the change. “Moses knows that without God’s presence the covenant is as good as dead” (Wright2006:335). The Scripture tells us, “Then Moses said to him, if your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us?” (Ex.33:15-16). Without the presence of God, Israel is like any heathen nation. What makes them distinct from Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians, etc is the presence of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob among them. If you will be with us, send us. If not, let us be where we are in slavery. Both in the Old and the New Testament, the presence of God among his people is conditional. We have to be holy. “…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” We can raise millions of dollars for mission, we can give our body for torture, leave our comfort, travel across Atlantic, and live in conditions that we would never imagine to live. If we don’t obey his command, Christ will not be with us.
Doing mission according to the command of Jesus Christ guarantees his presence with us. Today, in some part of the world, the onetime sanctuaries have become mosques, night clubs, and bars. When God’s people loose vision and purpose to live for mission we give up the joy of salivation and the aroma of Christian life.
Jǜrgen Moltmann, the German theologian who had gone through the agony of the crisis of European churches, said: If Christianity loses its missionary character anywhere in a civilization, or at any time in a given era, or in any society, it is forgetting its origin and surrendering its identity (Timothy Yates ed., 2000:19).
In his 1893 address to the American Baptist missionary union A.J. Gordon’s fervency for evangelistic missions was best expressed in these words:
The church which is not a missionary church will be a missing church during the next fifty years, its candle of consecration put out, if not its candlestick removed out of its place. As ministers and churches of Jesus Christ, our self preservation is conditioned on our obedience to the great commission. Now it is: Preach or perish! Evangelize or fossilize! Be a saving church, with girded loins and burning lamp, carrying a lost world on the heart day and night; or be a secularized church, lying in the heart of this present evil world, and allowing it to gird you and carry you withersoever it will. Which shall it be?” (Gerald H. Andersen, Robert T. Coote, et al., 1994:24).
If you agree with Moltman and A.J. Gordon as I do, you can’t afford to ignore but struggle with the missiological question that I have. How should do we need to do mission in “post Christian West and post Western Christianity?” Is the present modus operandi of Western mission leading us to convergence or divergence? The task of “The Great commission” demands constant, honest, biblical, evaluation and mission strategy. I hope all of us will make a positive contribution to effectively serve our generation and set a good legacy to those who follow.
Nothing replaces the presence of Christ among the one he send out to the mission field. Ask yourself these questions, am I called to be a missionary? Am I sent by the one who has authority in heaven and on earth? Is Christ with me? If you answer to these questions are yes, serve the Lord until your last breath. You are at the center of divine orbit. There will never be a better place and fulfilling career, which will give you joy and peace if you don’t obey.