At Renewal 2027 – Transformed by the Word: Reading Scripture in Anabaptist Perspectives in Augsburg, Germany 12 February 2017, the YABs committee (Young AnaBaptists) reflected on Matthew 28:19–20 from their local perspectives. The columns in this section have been adapted from their presentations.
There are many tasks assigned to us by God. It is forbidden to steal or kill (Exodus 20:15,13). We are instructed not to be jealous (Exodus 20:17), and to live a life of peace and truth (Romans 12:18).
Many of those instructions require us to change our way of life – to act better, be more generous, forgive those who have wronged us.
Other assignments focus more on the lives of others – to take care of the poor, those who are hungry or need clothes (Matthew 25:34-36).
But what about the task Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 28:19–20: “Go therefore 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 that I have commanded you.”
Many Christians, including Mennonites, see this assignment as one of the most important in all of Scripture. Thanks to this commandment, there are many Christians in the world today. Imagine if the disciples had returned to their families and their day jobs. Maybe they would have occasionally thought about the great times they had with Jesus, but the teachings of Jesus likely would have slowly slipped away.
Instead, we find gatherings of people committed to the teachings of Christ in all parts of the world. Together we share our hopes, faith and vision for love and peace, and find fellowship in associations like MWC.
A multicultural society
But, coming from the Dutch context, I have a few problems with carrying out this assignment. The Netherlands is a multicultural society. As with many other Western countries, the number of immigrants has steadily grown since World War II. This has given us many good things. Our culture has been enriched as we learned to know other faiths.
How should Jesus’ instructions be understood in a multicultural world?
Is it my task to go to my Muslim neighbour and ask him or her to convert to my faith? Is it my job to tell my Jewish friends that they are wrong? That I will teach them what is good? That doesn’t sit well with me.
I love to talk about my faith with people from all backgrounds, cultures, religions. But my faith is also personal. There are many differences even among Mennonites; sometimes there are as many commonalities between a Muslim friend and me as between another Christian and me. Am I supposed to tell others I am right?
It seems better to me to follow the example of Jesus with the Samaritan woman in John 4. As they sat and drank water together, they shared stories, and in that way, they also shared their faith. I believe that is an example of living in harmony together from all nations.
A secular society
However, not only do I live in a multicultural world, I also live in a secular world where many people feel that the “institution of the church” is outdated, and faith has no meaning anymore. So, I tell everyone who wants to hear it that I am a lay preacher in our Mennonite church. I invite people to come and listen, to see whether they are interested in my kind of faith and becoming a Christian as well.
Most of all, I believe that your actions are the most powerful way of letting people know what it means to have faith; to create a better and peaceful world all around you. So I live the other final words of Jesus:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
By caring for my neighbours, by always acting kinder than I feel and helping those who are in need, I try to give hands and feet to this assignment. We all can.
—Jantine Huisman is a member of the YABs committee (Young AnaBaptists). She is from Doopsgezinde Kerk Joure (Mennonite church Joure), an Algemene Doopgezinde Societeit congregation in the Netherlands.