Late last year, I closed “Forgive the Confusion” by asking readers to stay tuned for a follow-up piece. What I did not know when I wrote that closing was how long readers would need to stay tuned. To paraphrase an old saying, one’s best-laid plans sometimes go awry. Thanks to health, family, and health issues, I have just now finished the piece promised months ago.
In closing Confusion, I raised the question, what is our job as believers. That question was raised by a difference of opinion expressed by two large Men’s Bible Study group members. Each study session ends with a time for discussion within the small groups.
One morning, a discussion question triggered a bit of a rant from one fellow. His comments set off a long-winded response from another. The first fellow was upset because, as he understood it, more than three billion people have never heard the name Jesus. He felt Christians were not doing their job.
The other fellow pointed out Christianity has faced this reality from the beginning. Even Jesus did not expect everyone to go out and spread the Gospel. He sent the apostles, as not everyone was called to such work. Also, Jesus made it clear to those who did go; they were not to waste their time on people who refused to hear the message.
So the question becomes which, if either, of these two individuals was correct? Are Christians falling down on the job, or are we doing as Jesus wanted, going out as modern-day disciples or missionaries?
As far as I know, Jesus has not chosen to appear to His followers as he did in biblical times. Yes, there have been testimonies of such incidents from individuals, but Jesus walking among the crowd or preaching on a hillside stopped some 2000 years ago, as I understand it.
I know he has not appeared to me, though I believe I have felt His presence. Since he has not paid the majority of us a visit, we must rely on our understanding of Scripture and our reasoning ability to understand our role in God’s plan.
The idea that believers should be attempting to introduce every individual on earth to the person of Jesus does not appear to be supported by common sense, logic, or Scripture. To accomplish such a goal, millions, possibly tens of millions, of missionaries would be needed. They would need to spread around the world, and each would need to tell everyone in their area about Jesus.
As noted above, even Jesus did not attempt to achieve such a lofty goal. He knew some would not hear and essentially told his apostles to avoid wasting time on these people. Instead, they were to move on to the next town, village, or area, focusing on those who would listen and believe. He even went so far as to tell them to shake the dust from their feet or, in modern terms, wash their hands of them.
Scripture seems to make it clear we are to reach out to those who will listen and let them attract others. If they are believers, they will be a light to the world. Through their good works, they will bring glory to the Father. Even in Jesus’s example of believers being the fruit of the vine, He did not say everyone would become fruit. Rather, He made it clear some would need to be pruned from the vine because they would not become the fruit they needed to be.
So, how does the title of this piece play into the discussion? If Christianity was simply a matter of spreading the Word and letting it raise up believers, one could call the Gospel the fertilizer of belief. As with the fertilizer used on farms, vineyards, and other settings, one would spread the message on everything and let it grow.
What Jesus started was a bit different. He picked a handful of individuals to go out and infuse everyone who would listen with the Gospel. Each of these was to start the growth of local groups of believers who would then influence those around them, hopefully infusing them with the promise of the Gospel.
This would be the yeast method. Yeast is not spread over all of the flour. A yeast starter is prepared, and small portions are introduced to the different recipes through kneading. These small quantities of yeast spread throughout the mixes. The yeast interacts with the dough, and the bread rises, becoming larger than the original dough.
Scripture seems to make it clear. The Apostles were the yeast. They were sent out to infect the people with the Gospel, and once a group or loaf was big enough, they moved on to the next batch. Not only that but some of those infused with the love of God spread to other groups, creating a growing population of believers.
On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with the idea that Christians should be working to make sure as many people as possible hear of Jesus and His sacrifice for us. Depending on the circumstances, we might need to use both approaches, the fertilizer, and the yeast.
What we should not do is decide ours is the only logical position. Also, we should not condemn others, individually or in mass, for not meeting our expectations. It is God’s expectation we need to meet. He alone will judge how well we do.
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