“…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’m with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28.19-20
I’m writing this blog post purely for Christians. So, if you aren’t a Christian, feel free to ignore (only if you wish). The above is a part of what some call the Great Commission. These are verses we often memorize even in our early Sunday School lessons, but I don’t think a lot of Christians really believe this Commission.
Franklin Graham, in a Facebook post on December 9, wrote that he’s opposed to receiving Muslim immigrants until they’re properly vetted. In his post, he agreed with Donald Trump on a similar point. I believe that his concerned about security is real. At the moment, our government does have a stricter vetting procedure than a lot of Europrean countries. There’s extensive followup on the refugees as well once they’ve entered in the country. The problem isn’t always what Graham says. The problem is the position from which he wrote those things.
Graham, as most of us know, is the head of a mission organization that organizes the Operation Christmas Child/Samaritan Purse campaign. He’s done some good work among the poor. More importantly, the organization is mission-based. All mission organizations recognize at least the importance of the Great Commission. By the traditional idea of mission, we send missionaries OUT THERE to convert the pagans. However, it’s important to note that mission these days also involves home mission. Mission is no longer out there. Mission is both home and abroad. This brings us back to Graham and his supporters.
Graham, like so many other Christian leaders, isn’t qualified to speak to national security issues. He doesn’t work for the FBI or CIA. He really doesn’t know enough to say whether we have a good enough vetting procedure or not. What he does know is Jesus’ teaching. He should know that Jesus’ Commission is pretty much indiscriminate. In fact, Jesus’ saying could be translated, “As you’re going, make disciples …” In other words, wherever God’s people settle, mission should happen. At least, that’s what Jesus seems to have taught. We must notice straight away that the Commission also talks about all nations or people. The Greek word for “nations” is where we get our English word “ethnic” from. It basically means people groups. Sometimes, the word is used in contrast against the word “Jews” to denote gentiles (Acts 14.5; Romans 3.29). In other words, all sorts of people groups, even (or especially) groups that are quite different from us deserve to have the chance to become the disciples of Jesus. Jesus didn’t say, Make disciples of all nations except for Muslims.
The implication of Graham’s rant from the stance of a mission organization is alarming. It really means that even if these other people groups come into the US with some of them coming into the Christian message for the first time, we Christians (especially many conservative Christians like Graham) aren’t ready to welcome them. Never mind what Jesus said. This is a very serious problem. A mission organization refusing to do home mission shows that we have lost the sense of mission. With that mentality, our mission is really very selective based solely on our personal interests and safety. Let’s face it, we aren’t ready for mission. Even if the refugees come into contact with our message, we aren’t ready to help them understand it because we ourselves aren’t practicing what we preach. If what Graham said represents the vast majority of evangelical Christian mindset, we aren’t even ready to live out our faith, let alone mission.