Did you know that when Jesus gave the Great Commission to his disciples in Matthew 28 that he was not telling them something completely new? In fact, when Jesus gave the Great Commission he was not only giving the disciples something spiritual, it was something that also had vast political implications. Here’s a little background on the Great Commission and its political implications.
Politics & Religion In The Ancient World
Under Roman occupation, a religious infrastructure that built and contributed to community and economic growth was the norm. Roman rule took advantage of local deities, and established temples of its own. Whole communities thrived on the business generated by pagan ritual and devotion. The Apostle Paul experienced this in Ephesus when the metalworkers and priests of the goddess Artemis wanted Paul killed for fear of what would happen to their industry if his preaching prevailed. Culturally, the Jewish and Gentile Christians who would proclaim the faith to the known world were used to a culture where religion was a vital part of building empires and solidifying a community’s faith through the economic and political benefit that faith offered. Faith, that to a large degree helped build communities, was normal. Ironically, community building is something most of the great faiths of the East did not do. Buddhism, Hinduism, and others focused on either personal denial, or spiritual attainment, but they built no lasting communities within communities, or empires within empires. Nor did they build communities with an economy-generating component, as Judaism and Christianity did. Christianity was designed to transcend a culture, and through that transcendence, transform it. This is why Christianity was able to spread and develop beyond the cultural borders of Israel. Christianity is culturally independent: It can be applied to many cultures without losing it core values. Where its principles cannot be adapted, it will either transform the culture or be rejected. As an example: Can a cannibalistic tribe keep its cannibalism and properly apply biblical principles in that culture? Certainly not! The tribe must either be transformed in its culture, or reject the principles of biblical society.
Most importantly, even though the New Testament did not prescribe “nation-building” in Old Testament fashion, the principles of its relationship-oriented missionary venture are identical, as we will see. Christianity may not have set out with political agendas, or nation-development in mind, but the Great Commission made it inevitable. Let us be clear about this: Nation development was inevitable, it was destined to happen, it could not be avoided. The Great Commission guaranteed it.
By this time, many Christians who believe it is best to avoid all political involvement will be scratching their head. How does the Great Commission guarantee political change? You may be in for a shock. There’s a secret you should know about the Great Commission and its place in the Bible.