The Many & Great Commissions
People throughout the scriptures receive a call - a mission that infuses their life with purpose, and compels them through danger, sacrifice, and doubt to reach the ends to which they have been driven. Standing at the edge of a new world, Jesus issued just such a call to his disciples: to go into the entire world, proclaiming his message to all creation.
We’ve labeled this the “Great Commission”, and applied it as a blanket prescription for all Christians for all time. But in doing so, we’ve made it so general, so toothless, that it means almost nothing. In the modern world, it serves mainly as a tool for raising money.
The people who received this commission didn’t take it generally. They dropped what they had, sacrificed their possessions and their lives, and went into the entire known world, fiercely spreading the message they had seen with their own eyes.
Now, people often take “go into all the world” to mean “be where you are in a specific part of the world”. But that’s not how the first disciples took it; they actually went.
By making this into a general command to be achieved by the community as a whole, we’ve not only robbed this passage of its meaning, we’ve robbed ourselves of the ability to receive our own commissions - calls that are far more specific and engaging and dangerous, calls that involve us in bigger and better stories, and calls that make meaning out of who we are as individuals.