“Go After Them!”

“Go After Them!”

Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15 are often referred to as the Great Commission passages – “great” because they weighed heavily on the obedience of his followers to perform a task impossible through human effort alone – “commission” because He was sending them out into the world as “sheep among wolves” (Matt. 10:16). But these words apply not only to his followers at that particular time, but also they carry over and require the obedience of His followers in the 21st century. Jesus said,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” (Matt. 28:19).

Perhaps no one fulfilled this command more than William and Catherine Booth, founders of The Salvation Army. For years they toiled and labored in the darkest, foulest slums of 19th century London, meeting the physical needs of the homeless and battered while sharing with them the beautiful life-changing message of Christ (a beautiful marriage of orthodoxy and social justice). Thousands of men, women, children and prostitutes were rescued off the streets of London and born again into the family of God because of the unwavering obedience of William and Catherine, often in the face of persecution and rejection.

In what was to be her last public address before succumbing to the ravages of cancer, Catherine spoke these strong words to a missionary conference June 21, 1888:

Look at the world again for a minute. Here are the millions of men entrenched in their wickedness; entrenched behind all manner of refuges of lies, enamored of their sins – some gaiety, some drink, some impurity, some ambition, some money, some learning, some one thing, and some another. There they are, satisfied with their sin so far, because poor things, they will not allow themselves to think. They are not inclined to think. Oh, if a man would only shake himself up for an hour, and face God and eternity, he would not rest in his sins; but their great desire, and the great object of the Devil, is to keep these things from them; so he keeps them always preoccupied – always busy. How are you going to get them down from their tower of self-satisfaction, sin, and pleasure? Do you think they are coming down by your saying, “Here, come along; hear me; let me preach to you. Come and be converted”? Oh no! The Christian Church has been trying that game too long. The people are far too busy. They turn around and tell you so. They say, “I am doing a great work; I cannot come to you.”

Listen to what Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples to do. Not to ensconce (entrench) themselves in comfortable buildings and invite the people to come, and then, if they would not come, leave them alone to be damned. No, no! He said: “Go ye,” which means, “Go after them.” Where, Lord? “Into all the world.” What to do? “Preach the Gospel to every creature.” Where, Lord? “Where the creatures are. Follow them!” If ever you are to get this work done it will be by pressing God’s truth upon the attention of men, and making them hear, and think, and feel; and it must be done by men and women who have themselves experienced and are living in the practice of what they preach.[i]

Catherine’s challenge echoes the words of Christ the day He ascended back into heaven. Catherine’s challenge spilled forth from a life of total commitment to that commission. We must go forth. We must help people understand and realize this prison of sin in which they are confined. Their eyes are blind, just like yours and mine were. So, must go to them. We cannot expect blind people to make their way to us. They are preoccupied with their own blind condition. We must go to them.

I often hear the response, “But how do I do it? What do I say to people?” This is a legitimate question. My response? Simply live the life God has created you to live. Love sinners. Eat with sinners as Jesus did. Build relationships. Find a physical need and meet it. Let His love flow out of you into their lives in the most natural of ways. And then tell them about Him. Speak his truth at every opportunity. People are looking for something real and something genuine, and we have it.

What are some preoccupations (busyness) that you see people deal with who are far from Jesus Christ?

Think of one person in your sphere of influence who needs Jesus Christ. What are some practical ways you can begin to reach them with the love of Christ?

[i] Catherine Booth, “The Challenge,” quoted in Trevor Yaxley, William and Catherine: A New Biography (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2003), p. 263-64.