Our reading this week is from what many people call the great commission from the gospel of Matthew:
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
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While many people do refer to our reading this week as the great commission, there are other commission stories in other versions of the Jesus story, in Luke 24:47-48, Acts 1:8, and John 20:22-23, which we’ve read recently. Each commission is unique, and original to each gospel. Each commission also reflects the concerns and situations of the communities for which these gospels were written.
While the Matthean community may have been passionate about spreading Jesus’ ethical teachings and inviting others throughout the entire world to follow them, we must be honest about how this passage has been coopted in Christianity and how Christian complicity with and participation in colonialism that has harmed Indigenous populations around the globe. Christian missions today, when coupled with the economic goals of global capitalism, still do much harm. Historically, Christian missions have served to spread European or Western values, erase Indigenous cultures, and enlarge the territories of Christian empires. So many Indigenous lives hae been negatively impacted or lost. This seems to me to contradict many of the ethics of the Jesus story, ethics like the Golden Rule, loving one’s neighbor as yourself, and sharing resources rather than exploiting them.
We’ll consider an alternative, next.
(Read Part 2)