Since humans began to form groups or communities, soon after creation and again after the flood of Noah’s day, each group has its own set of rules of conduct, either written or oral. These rules set the acceptable standard of behavior expected by members of that group. Many if not most of those “rules” of “group morality” have their basis in our innate sense of right and wrong, put into us at creation and enumerated by our Creator in His list of ten basic commandments, boiled down by Jesus to two: love God supremely and love others as much as you love yourself.
In America, our rules have been set down more than once in written form. Our Declaration of Independence gave the King of England our reasons for seeking to leave the commonwealth (i.e. to get rid of soccer in favor of “real football” and to exchange small cups of hot, weak tea for large glasses of sweet, iced tea?!). We wrote the Articles of Confederation and then the Constitution followed by a few amendments. And each state and most counties, cities and communities have their own documents of expected behavior and conduct.
Perhaps the first written document in “America” was the Mayflower Compact, penned by the Pilgrims and written by William Bradford. This brief document, signed by 41 of the Mayflower’s male passengers, gave the overriding reason the ship came to America: “having undertaken for the Glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith…” And it asserted that in the future there would be other documents written, “just and equal laws” set down, for order and the preservation of the colony and the general good of all the people.
This was a very good reason for their coming to America and in essence, resembles the Great Commission, given by Jesus Christ following His crucifixion and resurrection and just prior to His ascension.
This commission, an order from our God to ALL of those who know Christ as Savior and Lord, is given in Matthew 28, Mark 16 And Acts 1. And the commission will not be fulfilled until every person in the world has heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, given succinctly by Paul in I Corinthians 15 as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and leading to salvation and forgiveness of sins for those who will in faith accept Christ.
The commission requires us to “go” or in actuality, the wording is “as you are going”, that is wherever you go and wherever you are: home, work, school, church, community, golf course, ball game, flower club … wherever. As we are going, we are to give out the gospel, in how we act and in our words. We are to share the Good News and when people are saved, we then are to baptize them, disciple them and teach them God’s Word. That was the commission 2000 years ago; that is the commission today; that will be the commission until Christ returns.
Too many of us make the mistake the Pilgrims and early Christians in America made and many missionaries and travelers to “foreign cultures” make. We try to change the culture before we share the Gospel.
In America, many of the Native Americans were “turned off” by the teaching of the Bible because the “teachers” tried to change their way of life. The same thing has happened throughout the world.
We are not called to change people, only God can do that. We are called to show to people the change (for the better) that God can make in a life when we come to Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit. We are to show the world Jesus, in our actions, our speech, our love. And when someone comes to Christ, then God will do the changes that He deems necessary.
I’ve known people in my life who came to Christ and were immediately and drastically changed: “old habits”, harmful habits became new. Some gave up alcohol and drugs immediately; others more slowly. God works differently in each one, but God will work. Someone said, He will come to us where we are, but He’s not content to leave us there!
In my life, the change was evident to me but wasn’t so drastic. I grew up in a good, Bible teaching/believing church. My parents took my brother and me to church every time the doors were opened and they were both active in the church in the gifts God gave them. I went to Sunday School, VBS, youth; I learned memory verses, participated in Bible quizzes, attended Bible camps and so on. And I pretty much “behaved” myself to my parents’ rules!
At age 11, I finally came to realize that all my “goodness” and all the “religious” things I was doing, wouldn’t take me to heaven. So in July of 1963, in by bunk at camp, I confessed my sins to the Lord and accepted Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior.
The next day I told my counselor and when I went home on Sunday I told my pastor. Their reaction was the same “I thought you were already saved!” But God still had work to do. Where I had gone to church because of my parents, I now wanted to attend church. Where I had studied and memorized the Bible for prizes, I now did it to grow closer to the Lord. No I wasn’t, and I’m still not perfect. But God is still working on me and will “until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6)
I saw the changes; they weren’t so much outward as they were attitudinal and inward. And that’s how God works. It’s not our job to change people. It is our “commission” to live out and share the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, to a lost and dying world so desperately in need of change, change that only God can achieve.
Yes, the Pilgrims came to bring Christianity to the “Americas”. Christians travel the world to take the Gospel to every continent and nation. It is our “prime directive”, our daily work, wherever we are. And as we do our part, God will do His; people will be saved, lives will be changed, and homes, communities, churches and nations will likewise change too. Who are you praying for? Who are you sharing the Gospel with?