Donald Sensing gets to the core issue dividing self-proclaimed Christians today, and it isn't what some think. I'd go further than Rev. Sensing, and I'll explain why further down.

The second link above is to an article by a Rev. N. Graham Standish who says that Christianity is partitioned between those who emphasize the Great Commandment, and those who emphasize the Great Commission. The Great Commandment is:

Matthew 22:35-40

One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Jesus delivered the Great Commission immediately before ascending into Heaven after his resurrection:
Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Rev. Sensing disagrees with Rev. Standish and says that the biggest divide between "Christians" is between those who worship the person of Jesus Christ himself, and those who worship the ethics and teachings of Jesus. As he points out, it's easy to have Christian ethics without Christ; most of Jesus' teachings were not revolutionary, and have been present in Judaism for centuries.

Perhaps my extension to Rev. Sensing's position is already clear from my use of punctuation: those who attempt to follow the teachings of Christ without following Christ himself are simply not Christians. I make no claim to be wise enough to distintinguish between such people, but I think God gives us each enough discernment to evaluate our own lives.

It's easy to make idols without even realizing it. Even othewise good things can lead us to idolatry when they take the place of God in our hearts and minds. Family, friends, work, recreation, church... all these things are good, in their place, but when any of them usurps God's central role in our life it must be cast down again.

The things Jesus taught are important, but we must recognize and resist the temptation to elevate the creation above their creator. God doesn't call us to a set of rules, a set of facts, or a morality system. God calls us into a personal relationship with himself. The rest of that stuff is easier to focus on, because it's hard to see God, but it's all peripheral.

As for the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, there's really no conflict. We are to love our neighbors, but that love should spur us towards more evangelism, not less. Our love for our fellow man should encourage us to spread the truth of the gospel of Christ!

There are those who would equate love with "tolerance" for other systems of belief, but there is a vast difference between tolerance and acceptance. God loves us all, exactly the way we are. We don't have to change one single bit to get God's love. He won't love us any more if we change, and he won't love us any less if we don't. But he loves us so much that he doesn't want us to stay the way we are. He wants to make us holy, godly, and Christlike, and that's the purpose of the Great Commission.

Christians are God's tools in the world. The Great Commandment is our motivation, and the Great Commission is our duty. If we do not serve God we do not love him, or our neighbors. If we do not love God and men, any service we perform is hollow and worthless.

(HT: Bill Hobbs, although I would've seen it myself shortly!)



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