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Teach Them to Follow Everything
April 28, 2019, 12:00 AM


Grace and Peace to you from the triune God. May the words on my lips and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to God.

Jesus is about to be taken up from the midst of the disciples. Jesus is about to ascend to heaven. Jesus has just one more chance to impart wisdom and so what does he say, because obviously these were important words. Jesus says,

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”

Okay, this is the second to the last thing Jesus says because after this he promises that they will never be left alone. But this is the one where Jesus has an opportunity to tell the disciples what they should be doing. It is kind of like the football huddle, the quarterback is giving the players last minute instruction and when they break they will be playing. What do we learn from this last little huddle.

First we learn that we are told to go out into the world to share our faith. We are to be going into all the world, to any and every people, to call them into the fold, known as the body of Christ. We are to Go to the people of every culture.

Second we learn what to teach in all these places. First we are to be teaching about and bringing people to baptism. This is a once endeavor. In our baptism and for those we bring to baptism, we are made one in the body of Christ and reconciled to God. This has many benefits like forgiveness of sins and life eternal in the presence of God but truly it is also brings us into the relationship, which ensures we are never alone. Never alone is the one one of the benefits for this lifetime. Second we are to teach them to obey everything that Jesus commanded.

The first teaching is simple, in some ways the Pentecostals and the Jehovah's have the first half of this part down pat. We are to reach those who have not heard the gospel message of the forgiveness that is available through Jesus. We are to help bring those people to faith in Jesus. That is the half they have perfect. It is the so that they come to the baptismal font, which we have perfect. This is where our theology helps us to know that it is one thing to come to faith but that needs to lead to baptism. We can accept that Jesus' love is enough to pave a way back to God and we as Lutherans know this then leads to the baptismal font. This however is only half of what Jesus commands us to teach.

The other half is to teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. The first question I have when reading this statement is of course, “Ok, what did Jesus teach us.” So, other than have faith, be baptized and you are forgiven the simplest and most comprehensive of Jesus' teachings is probably The summation of the commandments. Love the lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul. And the second is like the first. Love your neighbor as yourself. This, however simple and elegant, leaves much room for interpretation and we often want something a little more specific. Like, “No, you can not hit your brother simply because he hit you first.”

So, what do we get. I want to propose that we get two bits of instruction. First we get the direct instruction. As in, “whatever you do for the least of these.” Second we get not specific actions to be taken or avoided, but instead the evidence to look for, which helps you know whether something not specifically mentioned was OK or not. As in the Pauline, “Fruits of the Spirit.”

The direct list is things like repent, turn the other cheek, love all your neighbors (yes, even the Samaritan), make no oaths, reconcile with your sisters and brothers before approaching the altar, and abide by the ten commandments. This list is nice because it is direct and to the point and therefore requires little interpretation. Well except that we seem to continue to talk about who is our neighbor, and we continue to discuss what are the loving actions towards our neighbors, and we continue to discuss forgiveness of the other and who is worthy of charity. So even these specific directions require interpretation.

There are lots of theories on how best to interpret the will of God. In the category of more interesting and biblically utilized ways to interpret what God or Christ wills is the casting of lots. That as we read this morning is how they replaced the twelfth disciple. I must admit throwing dice is not high on my list of ways to interpret God's will, although a D20 natural 0 can speak volumes. There are also those we have made up through time because they seem to help and work. I am thinking of methods like “looking for confirmation” because if it really is of God then God will show us the same answer multiple times. And then there are the methods we read through out the bible that involve looking at the results. For this last one, maybe the clearest is the Pauline where read, “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.”

This list from Paul is very simple and yet as is true with simple things in the bible they are much deeper than they first appear. So, the thought in this list is that we should be able to look at the evidence to see if a person is really of God or whether a given set of actions is of God, because if they are of God they will be bringing things on this list to fruition. For instance, is the feeding of the poor bringing more people to know love, joy, and peace. Certainly feeding the poor involves kindness and faithfulness. Depending on your situation it is possible that patience and self-control are increased by this activity. So this activity of feeding the poor, which has pretty good direct command from Jesus passes the smell test.

Let us take a different example however of tipping practices. Does the way we tip the wait staff in a restaurant increase the love, peace, joy and patience of the recipient. Does the way we tip express generosity, kindness and gentleness. Or does the way we tip fail to increase these thing in us and in the wait staff of the restaurant.

Now this seven item list is great, but sometimes we don't have time for seven and thankfully much like Jesus reduced the commandments to Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself, this list has been produced in a shorter form. At one point we read about Love, Peace and Joy and the greatest of these is Love. So now we are down to a three point list when considering any given action and if we are really in a hurry there is a one word test. Does this action increase the love in the world, Does this action show love from me to the other. And if you think I am being simplistic in asking whether every action increases the love in and of the world, consider that the word love shows up in all its forms 542 times in the Bible with 188 of those being in the New Testament. The only words that are not conjunction or pronoun and are more frequent in the New Testament are words that reference God and/or Jesus Christ. So, using the one word love as the filter for whether an action is Godly does not seem out of line.

I started this morning with Christ telling the disciples, of whom we are the inheritors of their task, that they are to go out into all the world baptizing and teaching people to follow the commands of Christ. We have chased this down the rabbit hole looking for how best to follow the command of and what are the commands of Christ. I will posit to you that I think the commands of Christ can be summarized in one word, LOVE. Think about it Love, peace and joy and the greatest is LOVE or Love God and Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Maybe Jackie De Shannon got it right when she wrote it in a song saying, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love, It's the only thing that there's just too little of, What the world needs now is love, sweet love, No not just for some but for everyone.” and so I propose to you that following the command of Christ can be reduced to that one world LOVE.