By Josh Brockway, director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship
At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus shares the “Great Commission”— “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a).
Some highlight this as a command to evangelize, and they are right. Brethren have also pointed to this passage for our triune practice of baptism, and they are right. But neither is the whole picture.
What is profound about this simple passage is the gift Christ gives his followers. There on the mount, in his final earthly moments, Jesus entrusted his disciples with the full story of God’s Good News. It took them a while (50 days, to be exact) to really understand Jesus’ commandment, but they became stewards of the story nonetheless. And they did it—going into all nations, teaching what Jesus taught, and baptizing people by the thousands.
This bearing of the Jesus story has carried on through generations of disciples. Each of us can list the people who taught us significant lessons about God—the family member who exemplified unconditional love; the Sunday school teacher who finally made sense of the resurrection; the camp counselor who listened to questions of faith; and the spiritual friend who boldly asked about your prayer life.
As Brethren, we cherish the stories of our past. We love to tell the stories of how radical acts of service and peacemaking grew into lasting movements within the wider church. We herald our own catalogue of saints, those who embodied core teachings of the Brethren with courage and grace. However, telling these stories is only part of the task we have been given. We only tell half the story if we miss the long line of connections to the actual story of Jesus. Our cherished Brethren stories are ones about radical and compassionate acts of following Jesus. And as Peter says, we should be quick to tell why these stories are the root of the hope we have within us (1 Peter 3:15). For the same Spirit that was at work in Jesus and in the Brethren saints is also at work in us now.
Sisters and brothers, we are not merely a peace church. We are not even a servant people. Rather, we are followers of Jesus, in whom we see the full nature and plan of God. We follow Jesus, who rejected the sword and took up the towel. We are peacemakers and servants, not because of previous Brethren, but because of Jesus who entrusted his story to us. Out of obedience to Jesus as teacher and savior, we go into the world as peacemakers and servants. It is then that we are stewards of the Jesus story. And as we go into the world, we are to share that story, making disciples through baptism and teaching, through service and making peace.