Wednesday, July 1, 2009

My Take on The Great Commission Debate

So, I've been pondering the implications of a friend's blog post for several days. This is partially because the bulk of its text is heavy stuff and I can't digest it amid the moment by moment interruptions of my days, and also because I just haven't been sure how to take it.

See Erik Ullestad's full blog at

The impetus of Erik's blog is a new Study Bible released by Augsburg Fortress (commonly known as the publishing arm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). There is a study note regarding The Great Commission (where Christ tells the disciples to "make disciples of all nations") that has (apparently) caused some controversy.

First off, I would have no knowledge whatsoever of this controversy if it weren't for my association with Erik and his much-appreciated blog (score one for the transparency motivated by our online lives).

That being said, I am intrigued by the conversation this blog (which includes a response from Dr. Duane A. Priebe, the Knutson Professor of Systematic Theology and Senior Faculty Fellow at Wartburg Theological Seminary, regarding his contribution of The Great Commission study notes -- at least that's the way I understand it) has initiated, and the ever-developing thoughts I formulate as a result.

I'm going to pull one simple sentence from this blog (something I HATE when done with the Bible, but, oh, well.)

"Faith is participation now in salvation."

The big debate (as far as my feeble mind can tell) about the study notes is Dr. Priebe postulates that Christ does not call the disciples to make all people of all nations disciples, but to make disciples in each nation. This bucks in the face of the idea that each and every Christian who believes should transform their lives and become disciples of Christ.

I can see how this might rub people the wrong way.

What does it mean to be a Christian, if not to strive to be Christ's disciple, to immerse oneself in God's word, to pray continuously, to lose one's life that one might follow Christ?

And I get that.

But for me, this explanation resolves a question I have had for some time: If we are all to "drop our nets" (metaphorically) and give up our lives to serve Christ, who grows the food? Who hunts the beasts that sustain us? Who cares for the children? Who tends to the home fires?

We cannot all be fervent disciples of Christ, forsaking all commitment to spend hours in pious solitude or service to others. If that were the case, the human race as we know it would perish.

So, to me, Dr. Priebe's statement is not all that controversial. In many ways it helps me to understand why I fall short of my expectations of discipleship every day.

I am saved by Christ.

I am called to be his child.

I am called to worship,

To praise,

To service,

To love my fellow man.

I am forgiven.

But until he calls me to be his disciple, no amount of earthly effort on my part will bring it about.

So all that guilt is not mine to carry.

By living a life of love for my neighbor, Christ bestows me with that glimpse of salvation in which my faith allows me to participate.

I cannot will it into being.

It simply is.

Sounds like grace to me.