A Unity Minister's Perspective on the Great Commission -- by Rev. Tom Thorpe

“Ten Ideas That Make A Difference.”  That’s the title of an article — actually a series of essays — in the March 25, 2013 issue of Time Magazine.  I was pleased to discover that one of the ten ideas focuses on religion:  “Preach Like Your Faith Depends On It.”   The essay’s author, Jon Meacham,  shares this observation from G. K. Chesterton:

“the Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

 
Meacham’s essay describes new “prophetic preaching” initiatives among a number of Christian groups, an effort toward “recovery of the basic dynamic of New Testament Christianity.”  The Scriptural inspiration for this effort comes from a passage called The Great Commission, found in all four Gospels and cited here from the last two verses of the Gospel of Matthew:
 
Matthew 28:[19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 
 
Whenever someone asks if “you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior,” she or he is doing his or her best to fulfill The Great Commission.  I’ve been blessed by a number of conversations with very sincere Evangelical Christians who have shared their passion for “bringing souls to Christ,” for fulfilling the Great Commission.  I’ve come to understand the love and devotion that motivates their door-to-door efforts.  I’ve learned to bless them as I gently decline their invitation to accept salvation through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  I believe that focusing on Jesus’ life and teaching, rather than on his death, opens the path not to salvation — because I cannot believe that anyone is “damned” — but to actualization, or the ability to live from a clearer understanding of who we are and why we’re alive.
 
As we move through the final two weeks of Lent, I believe it’s important for each of us to reflect on our view of Jesus Christ, his mission, and his legacy to us, his 21st century disciples.  Yes, I believe the message and the mission of Jesus are as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago.  I believe that the relevance of Jesus’ mission and message becomes clear to us as we learn to understand Jesus as the great example rather than the great exception.
 
A prevalent view is that Jesus is “God’s only son.”  My view is that the Christ is God’s offspring.   God’s creations are ideas.  The Christ is God’s idea of humankind, the perfect pattern, the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:27) that forms the essence of every person.
 
Although the Gospels offer us the clearest picture of Jesus we’re likely to find, they are not eyewitness accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry.  Each Gospel shares it’s writer’s unique understanding of Jesus, an understanding he gained from his participation in a Christian community and  from hearing the stories of “people who knew people who knew Jesus.”   The writer of the fourth Gospel, John, presents a Jesus who understands his Divine Nature (John 10:30  “The Father and I are one”) and affirms our Divine Nature as well (John 17:11 “…Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one”).
 
Realization of Oneness is born in us through the Divine Faculty of Love.  The two great commandments (to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves) we find in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke have their origins in the Hebrew Scriptures, in Torah, the “books of the Law.”
 
In Deuteronomy 6, we read:
[4] Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. * [5] You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
In Leviticus 19, we read:
[18] You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
 
In John 13, we find what the Gospel writer describes as “a new commandment.”
 
[34] I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. [35] By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 
 
As I see it, this is a new commandment in that it invites us to love as Jesus loved and that it reminds us that demonstrated love, rather than professed allegiance to a set of beliefs, is the mark of a true Christian, a true follower of Jesus.  From reading the Gospels, I “get” that Jesus loved each person in the way s/he most needed to be loved.  Jesus invested the time and effort to discover the uniqueness of the people closest to him.  He invites us follow his example.  He invites us to realize Oneness through demonstrating love as he demonstrated love.
 
To love as Jesus loved is my view of the true Great Commission, the Christian ideal.  As Chesterton observed, the Christian ideal has too often “been found difficult and left untried.”  Certainly I can’t claim that my words and actions always live up to the Christian ideal.  I like to believe, though, that I’m making progress.  And I believe absolutely that the attractive energy of love in action will do more to lift human consciousness and improve the quality of human life than even the most fervent profession of belief.
 
March 16th, 2013