Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all – he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.
-- Pope Francis, Homily for World Youth Day, 28 July 2013
As we read these words, I cannot imagine a single Christian who would object to the Pope's sentiment. In fact, I would go farther and suggest that this exhortation perfectly sums up the missionary heart of the gospel message given to us by Christ in the Great Commission (Mt 28). Nice words. Familiar-sounding words. Comfortable words. Words that when read are met with lots of slow head nods.
And yet, the bold courage of which Pope Francis speaks tend to be nice, familiar, and comfortable only so long as someone else is taking the good news to these 'indifferent' people on 'the fringes of society' somewhere other than in our own nation, our own cities, and our own neighborhoods. For then, it seems, such words of gospel encouragement are met with resistance and suspicion.
"What about terrorists?!" Why are we surprised at the hostility of the world? What would we expect? How about...
If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.
"What about our freedom, our society...about making America great again?" Why do we so easily choose allegiance to our nation (great as it is) over Christ? Why are we so convinced the ideas of your party's platform are compatible with true Christianity? What about these ideas...
My kingdom is not of this world...Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness...It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God...Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.
These sorts of thoughts typically get me branded as a 'liberal' by my Evangelical friends--stands on social issues usually do, especially when they run counter to our strange American version of Christianity that marries the Jesus of Vacation Bible School with the idealized America of our high school civics class. I freely admit that I am not concerned with the labels but am concerned solely by our fidelity to Christ.
His message to the unbelieving world is one of forgiveness, mercy, pardon, and peace.
“The Lord seeks all...”
His message to his followers is one of fearlessness in the face of persecution, abandon in the face of gross materialism, and love for all no matter the risk.
“Do not be afraid to go...”