Are The Great Commandment and The Great Commission Incompatible?

I have a question I’d like you to consider. I raise it because yesterday I was interviewed about this very question by Jim Burns for his nationally syndicated radio program, HomeWord with Jim Burns, who was talking with me about my book, I’m Okay-You’re Not.

The question I explore in I’m OK—and the one I’d like to ask you now—is whether or not you think that The Great Commandment and The Great Commission are (at this point in our culture) incompatible. I’m OK asserts that they are (and then, lest I be accused of being just a troublemaker, goes on to reconcile the two). I don’t want to sum the book up here; it is, after all, a question that demands some real respect and time to deal with properly. But let me here throw out this basic Stack O’ Propositions to you, and see if they don’t bring you to the same conclusion I keep coming to:

1. Fulfilling Jesus’ “Great Commandment” means loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

2. Fulfilling Jesus “Great Commission” (“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations …”) means sharing the gospel with nonbelievers, in the hopes that they’ll really hear the message of Jesus, believe in Him, and become Christians.

3. Putting The Great Commandment into words means saying to a nonbeliever something that, in essence, amounts to, “I love you with all of my heart.”

4. Putting The Great Commission into words means saying to a nonbeliever something that, in essence, amounts to, “You should exchange whatever you believe in now for belief in Jesus Christ.”

5. Boiled down even further, “You should exchange whatever you believe in now for belief in Jesus Christ,” amounts to, “You need to radically change who you are.”

6. “I love you with all my heart,” and “You need to radically change who you are” is a confusing, unhelpful message.

7. Maybe we should rethink how we do evangelism.

What do you think? Does all that make sense? Have I totally missed or boggled something in this line of reasoning?

I’m no logician; I’m no theologian; I’m no Bible scholar. I’m just a regular guy who, before I was a Christian, used to wonder how Christians could think that anyone would ever react positively to the message “I love you; now change.”

And now that I am a Christian, I still wonder about that.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Jill Kerman

    I have to say: When I had backslidden, I often thought, “Judgmental Christians…that’s exactly why nobody wants to be a Christian.” No one wants to feel as though a Christian is looking down his/her nose at him/her. We all want to be loved and respected; not judged and criticized. I’ve learned that, for me, that means not stiffening when someone drops an F-bomb, and giving a harsh look. For some people, that’s just not an offensive word; it’s their cultural way of communicating. It means that when I come across a gay person, I don’t act stiffly toward them, as if they’re such repulsive people. (When, really, the act of being homosexual is repulsive, but the homosexual him/herself is not.) When another Christian is struggling, I think it’s really distasteful when others in the church ostracize him/her (or worse, gossip about it!) instead of embracing the person struggling, and walking with them in prayer. People don’t need judgment; they need love, understanding, support, and guidance.

    I think that The Great Commission to make disciples of all nations can BEST be done by putting into practice The Great Commandment to love others as we love ourselves. When we love others as we love ourselves, we put ourselves into that person’s shoes for a moment, and try to truly understand his/her feelings. When we are able to grasp someone’s pain, we are able to effectively minister to him or her…maybe that means sharing the gospel, or maybe that simply means showing through actions what a Christian is. Either way, if that person already knows we are a Christian, and is on the receiving end of such love and NON-judgment, it’s bound to affect him/her in a positive way. And hopefully, the connection between such love and kindness is attributed to our Christian faith.

    My Two Cents,

    Jill Kerman

  • Sam Burton

    I'm not sure I see a disconnect the way you do. In fact, I don't think I would present the picture the way you do. For example, I might say,

    1. The Great Commandment: I love you with all my heart.

    2. The Great Commission: Your house is on fire, get out! or, Bad News/Good News. Bad News: You have a cancer. I love you and it's killing me to tell you and I know it's hard. Good News: There is a cure. It's radical and it's demanding, but it works every time.

    When I put them in those kinds of terms, they don't seem so contradictory.

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    Hey, Jill; hey, Sam. Thank you both for your thoughtful responses.

    Hey, to Sam, if I may: You’ll notice that the thing you’ve imagined yourself saying here, in #1 (“I love you with all my heart”) is something you COULD say, literally: It would be touching, sweet, and clear.

    What you’ve said in #2, though, amounts to nothing that would actually, in a conversation, make sense. THERE you are speaking (I hope) figuratively. You wouldn’t REALLY say to someone “Your house is on fire! Get out!”, right? Cuz you’d seem insane.

    My question is: What would you ACTUALLY say–what LITERAL words would you choose instead of the figurative ones you’ve here used–that wouldn’t, to the nonbeliever with whom you’re engaging, sound insulting?

    Isn’t “Your house is on fire,” and “You have cancer” figurative language–euphamisms–for “You’re a sorry loser; you’re wrong; you’re going to hell”, etc. And isn’t that a necessarily repelling message? Wouldn’t YOU be repelled by someone saying those things to you? And if you’ve repelled someone, that means you can’t have a relationship with them, right? And that means you’ve broken the Great Commandment with that person, right? Since you can’t have a loving relationship with someone with whom you have no relationship at all?

  • Tony

    John,

    I don't know, but maybe you are over-simplifying things.

    The way I would illustrate how the great commandment & great commission are reconciled is by looking at everyday life.

    For example, good parents LITERALLY tell their child that they must change certain behavior becuase it is BAD. Yet they maintain a loving relationship with that child.

    The relationship isn't broken because trust and respect existed first. Someone who first walks out the great commandment can then fulfill the great commission. If you get it backwards you may never have anyone to make a disciple of.

  • Scott

    It seems you’ve encountered the same dilemma as I have and I assume millions before us. I’m still not sure the “best” way to deal with it. However I’ve found the best I can hope for is to continue to remove the plank (or log) from my own eye and be a better example of Christ’s teaching so I can earn the right to be heard when an opportunity to share the faith occurs. Unless you are an evangelist the opportunity to share does not happen frequently enough to have a deep reserve of good answers to the tough questions. I’m learning this is not something most of us do well without practicing. So spending time reading, watching various programs (“The Way of The Master”) and videos on how to share in various situations (politics, homosexuality, Islam, abortion,…) has proven valuable to me.

    I’m still working on the presentation part myself; it’s too easy to be overly aggressive since we really want to reach lost people and wake them up before it’s too late. It’s also hard not to be a bit defensive when the current culture’s mindset is so antichristian in its beliefs and morals. It’s a quandary and challenge to share the faith, in love, but one well worth the consideration and effort to live up to and share the faith we consider as important as life itself.

  • Anthony Perry

    I love my children. I love them with all my heart. They are, however, children. They need to grow, to mature, and to learn right from wrong. They need to be taught about sinful traits that mar character, and to turn from

    these things as they aim their life towards God and neighbor in love. They are always under my love and care,as they seek to walk in His way, truth, and life. Nothing they do will ever change how I feel towards them. Not even if they made 77 times 7 mistakes in one day.

    The truth the church needs to own, despite all appearances, is that we are not O.K.. "I've got junk, you've got junk, we all got junk" and God is still involved in the process of cleaning me up. We are the children of God in the process of being changed from "glory to glory." We are "moving onto perfection" in love, but we are not there yet (not until Jesus returns and then we will be like Him).

    So, if we all have junk, then what are we and what makes us so special? Well, for starters we can say that in the church we are (or should be) in right relationship with God and each other through Jesus. Because of God's love it is through Jesus we are reconciled, forgiven, Baptized, Spirit sealed, filled and empowered. We are sanctified, righteous and holy.

    We are these things because of our faith in Christ's sacrifice alone. It is God's gift of salvation through faith. We are these things even though we are still in the process of being transformed into His likeness.

    This is what the church is to offer, this is what the church should teach and we should learn as disciples, and this is what the church should practice.

    This is the great commission and commandment fulfilled together.

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    Hey, guys. Thanks for your thoughtful responses. They're all great. And though I know that in my haste I'll do injustice to them, let me quick run over my response to each:

    Tony said: "For example, good parents LITERALLY tell their child that they must change certain behavior becuase it is BAD. Yet they maintain a loving relationship with that child." That's true, Tony–but this isn't about the relationship between parents and their children. This is about the relationship between nonbelievers, God, and us. Which is to say it's about us REPRESENTING God to the nonbelievers: God, as God, isn't actually in that picture yet. And the problem that nonbelievers HAVE with the way Christians represent God to them is, exactly, that they/we act like they, the non-believers, are children. But they're not. They're fully equal to us; they're our PEERS. And if we treat an adult as we would a child, they can't help but feel patronized and condescended to, which offends them, the same way it would offend us if anyone treated us like a child. So they leave us. And then, with them, we fail to fulfill both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. That's … the reality of it. That's the ongoing problem. I do hear what you'e saying though: And you're certainly right. It's just that you're right within a context that doesn't actually address the problem at hand.

    Scott: You said: "However I’ve found the best I can hope for is to continue to remove the plank (or log) from my own eye and be a better example of Christ’s teaching so I can earn the right to be heard when an opportunity to share the faith occurs. " I think that nails it, right there. That's all you can do; that's all any of us can do. You can't force Christ on people, or they run. We want them to ASK us–which they will do, if we have a relationship with them, and if they think enough of our charcter to finally trust us enough to ask us about this most personal of matters.

    Anthony: Again: the "nonbelievers as children" analogy simply fails, in real-life application. (But, again, I definitely hear the beautiful place you and Tony come from on that.) No adult will stand being treated as a child–especially by a stranger, 'eh? I think everything else you say in your post is beautiful, and dead-on.

    I want to thank you guys for sharing your thoughts and ideas on this. It's such a rich dialogue. (I don't think that's spelled right….) I hope other join it; I think it's one of, if not the, most important things Christians should be talking about today. So, again, thanks.

  • Curtis Alexander

    Father Thomas Keating says much the same thing as you, John: “The new commandment is to accept others unconditionally; that is to say, without the least wish to change them.”

    I admit being amazed at such theology—If we really do love people, we’ll feel compelled to tell them (lovingly) that they absolutely need to change.

    For example, imagine that the person you love most in the whole world is taking heroin—the highly addictive drug from opium that destroys brain cells by the millions. Your love would drive you to help that person change, because without change, your loved one will be destroyed. And if you love people who are wallowing in sin (ultimately much more destructive than heroin), your love will drive you to help them change from sinners to believers in Christ, the only One who can save them from sin’s destruction.

    I never forget that old saying, “God loves you just the way you are. But He loves you too much to leave you just the way you are.” (Not from the Bible, of course :~)

    Christ’s message in the NT is nothing if not, “Let Me change you from the lost, frightened, suffering, destructive person you are to the safe, secure, joyful, productive person you can be in Christ!”

    Granted, the actual change in that person is not my responsibility; it’s not in my power to change even myself, let alone others. But the process of change that salvation is to bring cannot be denied or ignored. Every person who comes to faith in Jesus Christ must understand that He will not allow them to stay just as they are. If that were the case, then faith is futile.

    Love unconditionally? Absolutely. Love that ignores the need for change, for transformation? That’s not love at all, that’s just co–dependency.

  • Ike Coleman

    I think the message, "I love you, but you need to change," was Jesus' message precisely. As always, He was right. And I find no problem conveying that message to unbelievers, especially given that I know very well that Jesus is also constantly at work in me, changing me in wonderful and necessary ways. I love and embrace the changes He has made and is making in me, so I can present the prospect of such change for others in a loving way. I have a hard time understanding why you can't.

  • Ike Coleman

    I realize that the end of my previous comment seems harsh–I didn't mean it that way. Forgive me for seeming so. But I do think that loving someone and desiring change for them, especially if you also desire it for yourself, are not at all incompatible.

  • http://www.crosswalk.com Arnette

    We as Christians are asking non-Believers to come into the full realization of who they are in Christ…not to change like one would change clothes; rather to evolve into all they can be with Jesus in their lives. As I evangelize and spread the good news, it is just that…GOOD NEWS that sheds LIGHT on otherwise dull and dark places. It is not our place as followers to judge non-believers, simply to lift Jesus up so that He can draw them unto Himself. You don't say, "I love you as you are, now change"…you say, "I love you as you are, now let me show you how you can be even better."

  • http://demandit.org Bethany

    Hey Mr. Shore. Read your book (I'm OK) and found it helpful. I was wondering if the craig's list thing was still up online? It might be nice to show the comments to some of "those" Christians who aren't aware/convinced that we rub people the wrong way.

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    Hi, Bethany. Thanks for kind words re: Book o’ Mine. No, though, I’m afraid the Craigslist-generated responses were never online. When I first started writing I’m OK, I put a posting up on Craigslists all over the country, asking non-Christians to write me with whatever they might like to say to Christians–particularly (as you know) relative to their experiences with Christians “evangelizing” to them. I got back 350 or so responses, in two weeks. I only had room in the book to run 50 of them–those being of course the ones you read.

    They were heartbreaking reading. I actually considered posting a book consisting of nothing BUT those comments. As I say in the intro to the book, if you could boil down into one thought the collective sentiment of the nonbelievers statements, that thought would be, “Why do Christians hate us so much?” Painful.

  • http://undergroundreformation.wordpress.com/ undergroundreformati

    Mahatma Ghandi had a quote somewhere along the lines of "I love your Christ, but I hate your Christians, Your Christians are nothing like your Christ." Christians have a bad habit of forgetting who they are when they minister to nonbelievers, we think we are something special and holy when in reality our only bit of holiness is Christ and nothing in us.

    As far as the Comission and the Commandment go: Jesus names the greatest Commandment as to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength and the SECOND is to love your neighbor as yourself. We learn to love others as we learn to love God. This has to be taken care of before the believer can take part in fulfilling the Great Comission. As one commentor said, the mission of Christ to sinners was I love you, but repent. Before we can go and make disciples and teach them to obey the commands of God, we have to learn to love them as Christ loves them. The two are reconciled through the love of God and cannot be without that bond. If we went "commissioning" on our own initiative it would be foolish and hypocritical, but when we do so with the love we learn from God, we will see ourselves living the Great Commission in the way that Christ intended it to be lived. Hope that made sense.

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    Yeah, that does make sense. And I'm glad you mentioned the relationship between the two parts of The Great Commandment, both to themselves and then to the Great Commission. That whole dynamic is one I spend a third of my book "I'm OK" on. It's VITAL, as you say, to remember the two parts of the Great Commandment–and, as I say in the book, it's REALLY important to think about their relationship. I don't think we often enough take the Great Commandment for the very serious, very complex directive it is.

  • http://undergroundreformation.wordpress.com/ undergroundreformati

    I agree. From the very mouth of God in Christ, we see that this is, as it is named, the Greatest Commandment. How then can we sit by and treat it as secondary information? The Commandment, as well as the Commission are necessary and unbelievably costly aspects of the Christian life.

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    Well, as you know (I think), I don't think the Great Commission needs to be any sort of "costly" aspect of our Christian lives at all. I think we can stop worrying about trying to "share" what everyone already knows. I think that if (we) Christians took all the energy we now spend trying to convert others, and spent it instead "just" loving those same people, we'd all be better off.

  • http://undergroundreformation.wordpress.com/ undergroundreformati

    I believe the apostle Paul (as well as Christ) would probably disagree with you. The commission itself commands us to "make disciples" and while Christ loved those He ministered to, He also cried for repentance. The multitudes of those martyred throughtout Christian history (as well as in modern society) are a screaming testimony to the price of the Gospel. Jesus promised that bearing His name would be costly and the apostle Paul reitterates that claim in his own biography of what the Great Commission cost him.

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    Yes, but that was 2,000 years ago–back when NO ONE knew what Christianity was–when it was critical to the survival of the faith that it be shared with people who'd never, ever heard of it. That's hardly the state we find ourselves in today. Now, here in America, we can all rest assured that everyone's already familiar with the basics of our faith. And if any given nonbeliever wants to know more about Christianity, there are a zillion places they can go to find out about it. We don't need to burden ourselves–and we sure don't need to burden them–by "sharing" with them what they already know. If they ASK–then of course we should share with them what we know of Christ. But if they don't, we need to let it go.

  • http://undergroundreformation.wordpress.com/ undergroundreformati

    First, that type of persecution still exists today, not so much in America, but all over the world.

    Second, to assume that just because people live in America means that they have an understanding of Christ is quite dangerous. I don't believe you would tell a child not to burden himself with school, because everyone knows about math and english and if he really wants to know about it there are zillions of other places he can go to get it. It is a much more dangerous claim to assume that people know the basics of faith. Even in the church, a vast majority of members hardly know the basics of faith. With a mentality such as this, the Great Commission itself is rendered obsolete, as is a great portion of the New Testament.

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    As to the "non-believers as children" analogy, I've previously said this:

    http://johnshore.wordpress.com/2007/05/30/adults-

    As to the assertion that the vast majority of people in church don't even know the basics of their own religion, all I can say is … um … you need to change churches. Out here in the real world, people know exactly why they go to church on Sunday. Have a little more faith in your fellow believers, guy.

  • http://undergroundreformation.wordpress.com/ undergroundreformati

    The idea of the analogy was the point, not the "characters" involved. Insert any person of any age in any situation into that statement. The point is, people who have limited exposure and surface level exposure to a subject have little understanding. And, for the record, Scripture refers to men both of faith and non-believers as children. Not only God uses this term, but also Paul, etc.

    As to the knowledge of Church goers, hear are just a couple stats (and yes stats can lie, but only to a certain extent) about the knowledge of most "believers"

    "Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife"

    I have a great deal of faith in my fellow believers, that's why I love being in the ministry. Christianity is an intellegent and loving faith coming from an all intellegent and all loving God and we as His followers have the ability to learn these amazing truths…but we have to learn. Instruction in Scripture and by the Holy Spirit as well as through fellow believers is vital to the Spiritual development of a believer.

    Wouldnt really call that knowing what they believe, but close enough I guess…

    The church I am at is fine, thanks…due to the fact that we teach Scripture and doctrine in all that we do. Christians don't enter the faith knowing everything, contrary to popular belief. What you will find in talking to nonbelievers about their understanding of Christianity is that it is greatly skewed due to the actions of believers…which is another testimony to the lack of Scriptural depth of the majority of church goers.

    You failed to respond to the idea that claims such as

    "We don’t need to burden ourselves–and we sure don’t need to burden them–by “sharing” with them what they already know.

    renders the Scriptures irrelevant. We have explicit commands in Scripture to minister both in love and by the words we speak. When we silence Scripture because of It's age we tread on dangerous water.

    My name is Chris, you can use that instead of guy. I am greatly enjoying our discussion, thank you for disagreeing respectfully, as is not always the case in discussion of beliefs.

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    It's kind of you to act like I haven't been short and fairly snarky, when I have been. But, alas, I've sacrificed graciousness for brevity; I'm afraid I simply haven't had time to do this conversation justice. I spend a great deal of my DAY discussing/writing about all this stuff–which, sadly, doesn't actually leave me much time to work in the sort of venue we now find ourselves. So I'll have to bow out here for a while. But you seem like a great guy, and of course you've raised a lot of great points here. I have actually addressed all of these points–in the book, for SURE, and then again, say, in the interview you'll find linked in the (very short) posting I last made to this site. I mention this stuff not to sell a book to you, but only because, to be honest, anything I'd say to you here I've already said there. (If you do happen to stop by the Christianbook.com interview, check out how LONG it is. I think it's the longest interview in … the history of questions.)

    Oh, and about the "renders the scriptures irrelevant" thought. Nobody who's not a Christian wants to know anything more about the Bible than they already do. Someone who IS a Christian tends to want to know as much about the Bible as they can. In other words, scripture is ALREADY irrelevant to the nonbeliver–and, to a believer, it can't help but be intensely relevant. So it's just … a non-issue, all the way around.

  • http://undergroundreformation.wordpress.com/ undergroundreformati

    Understandable. I'll pick up the book for sure man, I've enjoyed our conversation (and a little snarkiness is hardly to be considered disrespectful or a bone of contention) and would enjoy supporting your ministry. If you ever swing through Georgia we can continue the dialogue then. Be well.

  • snowhite197

    John, I think you're sort of right.. but you are missing some aspects of the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. To recap your logic:

    1. Fulfilling Jesus’ “Great Commandment” means loving our neighbors as we love ourselves… this means loving non-Christians AS WELL AS loving our fellow CHRISTIANS! This seems obvious, but it is very very important (and something I think too many christians forget) for reasons you will soon see…

    2. Fulfilling Jesus “Great Commission” (”Therefore go and make disciples of all nations …”) means sharing the gospel with nonbelievers, in the hopes that they’ll really hear the message of Jesus, believe in Him, and become Christians. Sort of… but what it also means (and I think this is one of the most important parts) is to truly make disciples of OTHER CHRISTIANS and help them grow in the Lord. All Christians are called to be disciples and to make disciples; to 'spur one another on' and encourage one another to grow in the Lord.

    3. Putting The Great Commandment into words means saying to a nonbeliever something that, in essence, amounts to, “I love you with all of my heart.” But it also, importantly, and as I mentioned before, means supporting and loving other Christians with all your heart. This means FELLOWSHIP with other Christians. Read Acts 2:42-47. The early Christians met with each other for fellowship EVERY DAY and did their best to love one another and meet each other's needs. Does that sound like the church today? No, typically the church today looks like a place you go once a week to meet with people who you barely know and might go out to lunch with once a week directly after service. If you are one of the lucky ones that is actually living in rich fellowship with other Christians consider yourself TRULY BLESSED and an exception!!!

    4. Putting The Great Commission into words means saying to a nonbeliever something that, in essence, amounts to, “You should exchange whatever you believe in now for belief in Jesus Christ.” Nope, here is where we are wrong, wrong, wrong!!! The Great Commission is not about evangelizing as much as it is about making disciples! You can't make a disciple of someone who doesn't want to learn about your faith. If you are truly living life according to God's word, people will see a difference in you and ask about your faith sooner or later. hear me though– this doesn't happen just because you follow a lot of commandments, but because you are a part of something that you love so much- a new FAMILY of believers. People aren't really attracted to causes or ideas, when you get down to the heart of it. They are attracted to RELATIONSHIPS. The world will know there is something worthwhile about us when they see how much we love one another… AND that they are able to receive that love as well! When the church is able to get this, they will stop doing #5-6 below…

    5. Boiled down even further, “You should exchange whatever you believe in now for belief in Jesus Christ,” amounts to, “You need to radically change who you are.”

    6. ”I love you with all my heart,” and “You need to radically change who you are” is a confusing, unhelpful message.

    7. Maybe we should rethink how we do evangelism. YES. Some people are called to be evangelists as like, their career. Most people are called to evangelize certain people in their own sphere of influence at certain points in their lives. But we are ALL called to make disciples and to live a life of fellowship, helping to spread God's Word by our actions, not our words.

  • snowhite197

    PS i posted a comment on your squirrel story, the link i gave as my website for that was actually my husband's blog! But it's ok, he loves visitors…

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    This all souds good to me.

  • http://forums.coloradoan.com/viewtopic.php?p=25735#25735 nisperos

    You should check out John Michael Talbot on the Great Commission (May 15, 2007). Profound! http://johnmichaeltalbot.blogspot.com/search?q=%2

    The post closes with these words:

    "Preach the gospel at all times,

    if necessary use words." ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

  • http://www.johnshorebooks.com johnshore

    Mine's better.

    Ark. No, but of course it's such a huge subject. It really seems to be on a lot of Christians' minds lately. Which makes sense. Thanks for link, buddy.

  • http://forums.coloradoan.com/viewtopic.php?p=25735#25735 nisperos
  • Brian

    Mr. Shore,

    In the article in Outreach magazine you stated that "And the reason we can meet it—the reason we really can absolutely ignore our concerns about the ultimate welfare of the nonbeliever—is because of the simple, joyous fact that here in America today, everyone already knows about Christ. In this country, the Great Commission has been fulfilled." http://outreachmagazine.com/library/webexclusives

    Is it your understanding that if people know "about " Christ is fulfilling the great commission? The Lord Jesus in the great commission tells His disciples to "make disciples", not tell people about the good news. There is a vast difference. In addition, there are many people today in America who still have never heard the good news even though we "think" it's readily available to them. To tell us that we need not to make disciples in following the command of the great commission is dangerous. The great commandment also tells us to love our neighbors. What greater love is it than for us to desire unbelievers to become believers? Unbelievers end up in eternal torment in hell. Is it love to "just be with nonbelievers, without having to worry about whether or not they convert."? I ache regarding my family and friends that do not have a relationship with Christ. There are thousands of people in rescue missions that are going to a lost eternity. There are millions of people in America that will die in their sins if we stop loving them into the kingdom by following the great commission. I pray for them to know Christ and be saved.

    This article and your book "I'm OK-You're not" goes directly against scripture and I pray that you reevaluate the message you're sending to Christians. I hesitate to be stronger in my response to you at this time and I hope and pray that you receive this in love. Please respond.

  • Brian

    There is an important distinction when it comes to our definition of love. Love is desiring the best for someone. God loves us. Not just an emotional feeling but also in desiring the best for us even when we don't know it is best.

    An unbeliever doesn't know and doesn't beleive that if they continue in the path they are on it will lead to an eternity seperated from God-a place called hell. To love someone with actions "only" can still lead them to hell if they die before they ask you what you believe, according to your reasoning. Love with actions must include words. Love with words should include actions wherever possible.

    Its true that we must love others with actions. But its not enough. I have relatives I love. But if I don't tell them I love them, won't they question my love in the back of their mind?

    Making disciples means to come along side of someone and love them. Working with them, helping them to understand. Yes, sometimes it may seem that the messege is "I love you with all my heart and you need to radically change". Many people know they need to radically change. They are suffering with addictions, broken relationships, lack of hope and love. They want answers. The gospel of Jesus Christ provides those answers. Paul said, "I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the POWER of God to all who believe"!

  • http://blog.360.yahoo.com/skerrib Kerri B.

    Brian, I don't disagree with you in the desire to see friends and loved ones come to Christ; however, I don't think "I'm OK…" contradicts that desire at all. Of COURSE we Christians want to share the good news with everyone…why wouldn't we want them to share something that is so important to us. For me the key is relationship. Until a person has more or less given me permission to speak into his/her life, I'm just imposing my own beliefs on them. Until that point, any proselytizing or other conversion attempts make me look like a crazed salesperson.

    I can tell you, from experience, that I've seen the results of two approaches. In a friendship where my motive was conversion, I hurt and alienated a very good and fun person. I can tell you, she certainly knew my beliefs, and knew I had some good news…she respected them, certainly, but didn't think God or 'religion' was all that important, no matter how much I tried to pound into her that it was a relationship, not a religion, and she really should convert RIGHT NOW. Unfortunately I learned too late that, while I'm certainly willing to share my beliefs, it's up to God to do the actual heart-change in his own time.

    Totally different result with another friend…once again, this one knew my beliefs early on thru simply getting to know me. This time, while I made it known that I was always willing to talk about God-stuff, I didn't push. I just enjoyed being friends just for being friends' sake. After several years, the person came to a point of desiring to know more about what being a Christian was all about–bingo. But if I hadn't spent all those years developing a friendship, I can pretty much guarantee I wouldn't have been the one to get to watch God work.

    That's my two cents anyway…

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    What she said.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Sorry, Brian: didn't mean to be flippant. Was in hurry. And, in truth, I'm afraid I won't be able to much engage you here, simply because I've SAID everything I have to say on this matter in my book. You know what I mean? You write a book because you have something to say that you think SOMEONE should say–and you take a very long time to make sure you say it all, just right. And then that just sort of … stands as the entirety of everything you would ever have to say-or at least have to say at that point–about that subject.

    If I can be perfectly honest with you, here's a truth: People sometimes object to my book for exactly the reasons you've here put forth. But except for one person, so far virtually everyone that's objected to my book hadn't READ it before they began arguing with what they assumed it said. The Outreach interview is good, and I stand by everything I said in it, for sure. But if you're terribly interested in the thinking BEHIND everything I said there, I can only suggest that you consider reading my humble little tome.

    (OK, lemme say one thing: You see how you suggest above that what's vital is that we "help people to understand" what they as yet do not? Think about it. What's LESS charming or engaging than having someone try to "help" you understand something they're passionately convinced you need to understand in order for you to become more spiritually mature than you are? Nothing. Someone starts talking to you like that, and you grit your teeth, and try to get away from that person as soon as possible. Because it's obnoxious, and condescending, and patronizing. That's not love. That's … a sure way to violate the Great Commandment, since you can't love someone who ducks every time they see you coming.)

    Not, certainly, that you want my advice, but I can't help but suggest that you consider the value of ceasing to worry about who is and isn't a Christian. If Christianity is right and healthy and just, people will come to it. Trust in God.

  • Brian

    Kerri & John, I see your points and Kerri, I also experienced the same polarizing effect of blurting out the gospel. What I learned was that if it isn't done properly (in love and compassion) it will be received negatively. I also learned that I feel the guilt of not sharing what is the most important relationship in my life if I hold back. Sometimes we wait too long if at the forefront of our minds is simply to build the relationship. Sometimes the best thng for a friend is confrontation, loving confrontation with the truth of the message. After all, their eternal life is at stake.

    John, I do need to read your book to get a full understanding of your message.

    We have the greatest message in the world. People are dealing with unending problems that range from substance abuse and physical abuse to pride and greed. We have the message to give at just the right moment. I don't you to think that I'm talking about standing on a street corner with a megaphone. I'm talking about lovingly demonstrating and talking about christ at EVERY opportunity. Sometimes people will not want to hear it. (Have you ever received a message you didn't want to hear, but needed?) We are called to bring the message. God prepares the heart. Matt. 13:3-23.

  • http://www.williamely.name/ William

    Wow. I am amazed to hear such words from a practicing Christian! I am an atheist and I am constantly bombarded with wanna be evangelists offering to “pray for me” or ‘talk about my soul” and other strange nonsense. I work at a restaurant as a waiter and people even leave me tracts with my tip! Why would anyone do such a thing?

    It is very hard for me to understand because I have been an atheist since I was 13 years old (I am now 25). I have never known a serious Christian who talks about toning down the preaching.

    This very same “morally superior” attitude is what keeps me from being able to maintain friendships with any religious folks at all. All of the people who I can stand being around are atheist, agnostic or pagan. If more religious folks thought like you, then maybe they would have less “militant atheists” to worry about.

    I will not be converted and you will not be converted so why can we not be friends? Oh, well. You are in the minority so I guess things will not change anytime soon.

    I am going to buy your book from amazon to see what all you have to say. Your message seems pretty positive to me and your fellows should listen closely.

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  • Mark

    I am sorry if my comments are repeating those of others I am not very familiar to your writing or work but i just read your post "Are The Great Commandment and The Great Commission Incompatible?" And thought I would a my thoughts.

    I am a follower of Jesus Christ and have been for the last 17 years. I am recently moved to India to share the message of Christ's redemption with those that haven't heard here.

    I find the concept that the The Great Commandment and The Great Commission could be Incompatible to be quite absurd, however do see how some could misunderstand the the two to be in a sort of conflict.

    SO.. a few quick points

    1)

    I don't think the gospel message -the heart of what the great commission is- says "I am ok, you're not" I think it says "WE are not ok." and HE is the way to redemption.

    Rom 3:23, 5:12

    2)

    I don't think the great commandment SAYS so much "I love you with all of my heart." I think that it shows that love in a way that is often misunderstood. This idea -doing a loving thing that you don't understand- goes into many parts of our lives.

    A few examples are:

    a)As a parent you discipline your children for various reasons and often they respond with feeling and actions that are clear that they don't feel loved but they feel chastised.

    b)friends and family may sometimes intervene into someones life when they are enjoying the destructive things in life -ie. drug additions- those being intervened upon don't always feel loved but may respond with feelings and thoughts that those intervening are arrogant and judgmental.

    c)Often the a state's department for children's welfare will intervene a remove a child from the parents custody, to help both the parent and the child.

    Without getting into the semantics of each of my examples these are a few examples of doing loving things that when done are not seen or heard as loving.

    We as believers are commanded to love our neighbors AND to tell them the gospel. I believe these two are in fact the same. Sharing the redemptive love of Christ starts with understanding why you need to be redeemed -our sin-. Bringing people to an understanding of why they need to be redeemed in order for them to come into relationship with a infinitely good and perfect God, IS the best way to love your neighbor as yourself.

    Mark

  • Calvin

    The great commandment and commission are not contradictory? Loving ones neighbor as one loves himself is the principle motivation behing sharing the gospel (the kingdom of God) the great commission. The kingdom of God first needs to be understood by believers before they can go out to share the "good news" with unbelievers. Christianity gets hung up on the physical cost of what Jesus did at the cross, however, he died to restore the kingdom of God back to man which was lost in the garden. Adam lost dominion over his circumstances in the garden and every man (plural term) on planet earth is seeking to have this restored in his life. Not religion, not New Age, or any world system, but the gospel (the kingdom of God).

  • http://danielgurtner.wordpress.com daniel

    John, I think that as christians we've omitted parts of the great commission. The greatest commandment though remains what it is. The thing with the great commission is that it is the "sharing the gospel with nonbelievers". But we often forget what the gospel, which means good news, is in this context.

    Yes, it is the gospel of salvation that says "we are all sinners and we are doomed to burn in hell, but jesus christ paid the price in our place, so that if we believe in him, our sins are forgiven and we can now go to heaven". What we often forget though, is that there's also the gospel that the kingdom of god is right here on earth or "at hand". What I mean is that in the context of "sharing" my faith with unbelievers, it is the kingdom of god shining through from the inside out that people around us notice and want to know "hey, you're different. why?". Or showing kindness to someone

    who didn't expect it and then wonders why we do what we do.

    So it is first the kingdom inside of us that is demonstrated. And then it is communicating the gospel of the kingdom, that this kingdom can also be inside of the unbeliever because of the gospel of salvation.

    Now, here's the tricky thing: the great commission can only be fulfilled by fulfilling the great commandment. They MUST go hand in hand, or none of them can be effective. (Otherwise the great commission becomes the great omission – see i told you i keep finding the funnies in everything!)

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  • http://OPBNE.org Dennis Clough

    What if your understanding of the "greatest" commandment is wrong? I would like to say that the greatest commandment in the Bible is one that gives eternal life to the believer. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved" is far better than asking dead men to love God.

    Christ's answer about the "greatest" is in the context of the Ten. Do you not know that both Paul and Peter, James consenting (Acts 15, also Galatians 5) call the Law, all of it, all 10, a yoke of bondage unfit for the necks of new creatures in Christ?

    The Law is like an xray machine which can reveal the cancer of sin but cannot cure it. Jesus Christ is the healer who plants a new nature in forgiven sinners. This new nature is equipped to grow and be transformed into the image of Christ as it is fed the Word of God rightly divided.

    Oh for a return to Galatians preached and properly understood for a surge of truth and power through out the church of the Living God! Christ fullfilled the Law; both it's righteous requirements and its death penalty for every Law breaker. There is no Gospel but this Gospel and only Gospel believers will go to Heaven having been born again down here. That's a message worth sharing!

    It is entirely possible to be saved and afterwards add requirements to grace, thus polluting grace and making it largely inoperative in the present earthly life of the believer.

    That is what Paul was dealing with in Galatians. He said that little leaven (that's rotted dough, btw) leaven's the whole lump. We are to get rid of any teaching that contradicts the promises of grace in even the weakest believer's life. God bless, Dennis

  • http://OPBNE.org Dennis Clough

    Btw, I have found sucess in witnessing by being direct, dealing with the big issues. Asking questions with a smile works very well and trusting God to use His word is great. Definitely a learning experience every time. Questions work well … offer a tract … if its received the ask,"Are you interested in spiritual things? What do you think happens after we die? Do you believe in Heaven and h

    Hell? Where do you think you will go after you die? Why? Naturally, give time for responses and try to be brief on the street unless the person shows that they really want to continue. Do not argue or take offence.

    Be friendly: I spoke to a lady about the 2 dogs she was walking as I handed her a tract. She took it and started telling me about her dogs, whom she obviously loved. She mentioned that one of them had been rescued after being abandoned. She remarked that the rescued dog always seemed much more grateful than the other dog. What an opening! I told her how Jesus Christ had rescued me and how I am going to be forever grateful to Him …

  • frank sonnek

    “I love you; now change.”

    But is this what christians are told to tell people?

    The bible says that we are all spiritually dead. What is it that a dead person can do? Change that fact?

    So maybe the Holy Gospel is proclamation and not invitation or command?

    And maybe that proclamation is like God speaking "Let there be light!" Light spoken is not light that choses to be.

    Jesus is the bridegroom. the church is the bride. In his day, marriages were arranged. The bride did not choose the groom.

    Find a Lutheran church John. because you are Lutheran whether you know it or not.

  • http://www.pastorscor.wordpress.com Cory Griffith

    Hi John,

    First, thank you for asking the question. Most people would think it is a contradiction based on the answers you have recieved. Here is what my take on your question is. If I love my neighbor like myself then I know my neighbor has a terminal condition that leads to eternal death. I have the antidote, Christ. The most loving thing I can do is build a relationship with that person so they know I care and introduce Christ through my everyday witness so eventually they want to know why I do what I do for them. In time they come to understand I care about them and that they are not just another number. Once they know I care, they begin to care about what I know. Then I introduce them to the medecine, solution to sin, that can heal them and give them eternal life versus death. If I love my neighbor I will do what it takes to help them see the need for change in their lives based on the example I set through Christ. We have the mindset that everything needs to be instantaneous based on our western culture, but 99.99% of people will never respond that way. That is why we must take the time to build relationships so they want to hear. Here is something I tell my congregation every time I have the chance. “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The only way they will know how much you care is through relationship. We don’t beat our neighbor down because they are living like a heathen. We build a relationship so they can see how much better life can be as a believer through our example. I hope this helps. When I came to this realization suddenly people no longer ran when they saw me coming because I stopped shoving the proverbial 10 Lb Bible down their throats and I began to care like Jesus and met their needs first. Once their needs were met they were willing to hear about Christ in an open, non-threatening way. Thanks for your post and I wish you much success in reaching those around you by loving them as you love yourself.

    Cory

  • David

    I believe that you are having difficulty reconciling the Great Commandment with the Great Commission because you do not believe what Jesus said in John 14:6

    Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

    If you believed this your heart would break every time you met someone who did not put their trust in Jesus’ words. You would know that this person was going to spend an eternity in Hell and, however you picture it, Hell is not preferable to Heaven.

    You must examine your faith before you start planting seeds of doubt in others.


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