Yesterday on the blog we said that a just church proclaims the Gospel to anybody. In other words, there is no person (or type of person) that the local church is unwilling to tell the Good News. But is that all it takes to be a just church? Consider our key text again:
Matthew 28:18-20—“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We’ve already established this week on the blog that the imperative in this passage, the main verb, is to “make disciples.” In Jesus' day many rabbis had "disciples" who followed the word and ways of their teachers. And that’s exactly what a disciple is. It’s a follower of Jesus. To make disciples, then, is to help others follow Jesus.
At PBC we regularly say that our mission as a church is to Glorify Jesus by shepherding sinners from lost to leader. But are we making disciples of everybody in our membership? Do we take seriously the “one another” commands throughout the New Testament that compel us to help one another follow Jesus? A just church is seeking to make disciples of every member, without distinction.
It may not surprise you, but this is always easier said than done! In fact, even in the earliest days of the church God’s people were sometimes tempted to prefer certain members above others.
In Galatians 2:11-12, Paul tells us that Peter was happily hanging out and eating with Gentile Christians at the local church in Antioch. Until, that is, Pastor James sends a group of very Jewish representatives from the church in Jerusalem to see how things are going in Antioch. At which point Peter withholds fellowship from his church family in Antioch because he’s afraid of what the Jewish people will think. Which teaches us an important lesson: it’s easy to prefer people who are like you.
Or consider the words of James in James 2:1-4—My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
This is probably not a hypothetical scenario, but something that was happening in these churches. Which teaches us another important lesson: it’s easier to prefer people who can benefit you.
The church’s job is to make disciples, and to do that justly we must make disciples of everybody. Even if they’re different from us. Even if they can’t benefit us. We do it because that’s the mission of the church.