18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28.28-20 NIV
Matthew 28.18-20 is often called the Great Commission. The interpretation usually has to do with preaching the gospel and so on. Those who are a little more sophisticated are prone to point out that the main idea has to do with making disciples with the steps to go, baptist and teach. These are all solid ideas but what does it mean for us today.
“Nations” doesn’t mean nations as much as it means peoples in Matt 28.19. Many choose to translate it “gentiles” and in its frequent usages, the word can mean “gentiles”. How does all this play into its modern applications.
From Matthew’s world, scholars commonly recognize that Matthew had written his story for Jewish audiences. I wont rehash the argument in favor of a Jewish audience, but the command to go to gentiles had great significance in that world. For Jesus, he was talking to Jewish disciples who would eventually go to gentiles. For Matthew’s audience, they existed in a Jewish community and would eventually parallel the ministry of the original disciples by going to gentiles. In those days, Jews and gentiles did not always mix well together. The gentiles, for SOME Jews, would be considered the “other”. Just like today, people preferred to socialize with those they felt comfortable. The gentiles then would take them out of their comfort zone. Jesus was not saying that the disciples should replace their ministry to the Jews with gentile ministry as much as they were to break out of their comfort zone and begin associating with the “others”.
For modern Christians, part of the Great Commission calls for breaking out of one’s comfort zone. Christians shouldn’t always stick with their social economic class, race or other comfort zones. They should fulfill the Great Commission by first befriending, advocating and eventually making disciples of the “others”. This may require breaking out of traditional modes of faith community or religious buildings. This requires thinking, but first, we have to acknowledge that there’re those who fit the label of the “others” in our lives before we can think about how we can connect with them.