As our Elders have discussed at length over the past several months, our “marching orders” as Christians are to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20), but what does that mean? Millions of Christians have died over the millennia with confidence in a life-changing reality that has even led many to thank God for the opportunity to die for the name of Jesus. At times, thousands have come to faith in a single day, and in the early church, when celebrating Holy Communion was a capital offense, “…every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) Was all this for the purpose of filling pews and offering plates, or was it for something more?
Jesus said He came to give us a life overflowing with blessings (John 4:14; Psalm 23:5), and He gives those blessings through the Gospel and the Sacraments. Everything changes when God shows us that He loves us and will give us everything we need, when we see how He values us, and when we see the extent of His love for us and all people and the many ways He expresses that love. As that love permeates us, as we grow in faith, our changed perspective changes how we value and relate to others. As disciples of Jesus, Baptized in God’s name, we learn to treasure all that He has commanded us (that is, to love), because we know it’s rooted in His love and promises for us. As others experience God’s love naturally flowing through us, they see the reality of that Divine love, and the Gospel and Sacraments work from within us to bring others to faith. Notice that this happens first when they experience a sense of belonging when they receive God’s love from us. Over time, they become what God designed them to be: overflowing recipients of His love (not obligated rules-followers — note the difference), but this side of eternity, that’s a journey for all of us, not a destination.
So because the church consists of flawed people who’ve been made new by God and yet still struggle with temptation and distrust His love, we struggle together, welcoming all, encouraging each other, carrying each other’s burdens, praying for each other, training each other to live in God’s love, and resting in the comfort that, no matter how often our actions contradict the truth of God’s love, because the Holy Spirit has called us, we all belong.