Monday, August 10, 2015

This week's lesson (August 8-14): Jesus, the master of mission

"Then Jesus came to [his disciples] 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 28:18-20, NIV.
Most religions are like sports teams, i.e. your allegiance is local.

If you follow baseball in the Pacific Northwest, for instance, then you're probably a Mariners fan; if you're a fan in New England, then you probably follow the Red Sox.

Likewise, if you're Hopi then you probably follow Hopi rituals, while your Navajo neighbors follow the Navajo way.

And just as Mariner fans don't go door-to-door in Boston, asking the locals to support Félix Hernández, neither do you see the Hopi holding evangelistic series, urging the Navajo to be ready for the return of the Elder Brother.

To be sure, there are similarities -- and even a certain amount of "borrowing" going on (just as baseball teams may swap players) . . .

But by and large, the Hopi and Navajo each follow their own path and leave the other to follow their's; in a sense, you could say they each root for their own team.

And again, this is true of most religions . . . with three exceptions:
  • Buddhism,
  • Islam,
  • and Christianity.
Out of all the hundreds and thousands of religions in this world, in other words, only these three claim to be universal; only these three claim to be something that anyone, anywhere, at any time, and from any culture may follow.
Is this imperialistic -- an excuse for religious genocide? 
Maybe . . . 
But at the same time, it is also anti-imperialistic; it gives us reason to treat everyone from every culture with respect.
If anyone can be a Christian, after all, then that means no culture is intrinsically privileged, no nation is inherently holy, no group is necessarily closer to God than any other group. That means God does not love Americans more than He loves the Chinese; it also means American culture is no more "godly" than that of the Chinese.
No, we all need God.
And we can all follow God.
It doesn't matter where you live, in other words . . . 
You can still be part of the game.

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