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Are The Great Commandment and The Great Commission Incompatible?

  • John Shore
  • 2007 5 May
  • COMMENTS
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 wonderful radio program, HomeWord. (Jim was talking to me about my book, I’m OK--You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop, which is an exploration of the relationship between The Great Commandment and The Great Commission. Jim, whom I'd never met or spoken with before, read and liked I’m OK enough to invite me on his show to talk about it. Our conversation will air sometime in June: I’ll let you know exactly when).

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.

It seems like a good thing to talk about, anyway, doesn't it?

A former magazine writer and editor, John Shore’s life as a Christian writer began the moment when, at 38 years old, he was very suddenly (and while in a supply closet at his job, of all places) walloped by the benevolent hand of God. He is the author of I'm OK--You're Not: The Message We're Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop (NavPress), Penguins, Pain and the Whole Shebang: Why I Do The Things I Do, by God (as told to John Shore) (Seabury Books), and is co-author of Comma Sense: A Fun-damental Guide to Punctuation (St. Martin's Press). He is currently co-authoring a book with Stephen Arterburn.

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