The word “mandate” has certainly garnered a lot of attention recently. No matter what direction you turn, someone is talking mandates… either arguing for the importance of a mandate or the “unfairness” of being told what to do. And, in the difficult, polarized culture of 2021, people are using angry words and sharp rhetoric when the subject comes up. Some insist that mandates are the only way to make people do the right thing for the common good. They may be right. When left to our own choices, most of us will let human nature and selfishness overtake our more noble selves. Sometimes, we need an authoritative voice to prod us into moving in the right direction.
If you read the Scriptures carefully, you will discover a lot of mandates. Jesus, Himself, put a few out there for our consideration. When once asked about the greatest commandments, Jesus replied, “Love God and love your neighbor.” That’s pretty clear cut. In fact, Jesus also insisted that love would be the defining mark of the Christian faith… not pious rhetoric, not words of caustic condemnation, not demeaning insults, and not judgmental attitudes. It’s about love. That’s the mandate. We are to love God and our neighbors. The two mandates are connected. How can we claim a love for God if we proclaim a disdain for our neighbors who have been carefully created in His image? In fact, how we respond and love others is a direct indication of how well we really love God. If we love others, then we are forced to act on their behalf, even if it means pushing aside some of our own agendas, thoughts, and opinions. Christians really shouldn’t need a mandate to do the right thing. The love of God deeply imbedded within us, should compel us to think of the greater good and how we best protect the members of our society.
But there is another mandate offered by our Savior. His parting words, according to the Gospel of Matthew, were these: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (NLT). Jesus gave us a faith-sharing mandate. Go and make disciples. Go and teach the Gospel. It’s a mandate… not a suggestion, not a back-burner issue, not a do-it-if-you-have-time kind of thing. Most of us are certainly aware of this mandate, even if we don’t actively pursue it with the passion, attention, and energy that we should. But here’s the problem… we sometimes fail to understand that the mandate to share our faith and the mandate to love others are inextricably linked. Love must motivate us to share our faith with others. Love demands that we care about those who live without knowing the hope-giving, life-offering message of the Gospel. Love demands that we value every person on the planet and see them as people God longs to redeem. If we preach or teach with angry words, condemning phrases, and condescending glances, will the Gospel ever go forward through our efforts? If we ignore the plight of the poor, the injustice of the marginalized, and the abuse of the victimized, who will hear our voices? It is not only understanding the mandate to share our faith, but it is also understanding the mandate to do so with love and authentic acts of kindness and respect.
From the perspective of the seeker longing to ask honest questions, starving to hear authentic voices, and desperately craving a sense of community, there are far too many angry, judgmental, hate-filled, fear-mongering, people filling the pews of our churches. Sitting in a pew, holding a Bible, and singing praise songs doesn’t make a church-goer a Christian. It’s deeper than that. It’s a faith in who Jesus is. It’s a set of core values that govern behavior. It’s a love that stretches far beyond political ideologies, personal opinion, and tribal rhetoric. Maybe the wrist bracelet someone ought to produce is not one asking, “What would Jesus do?” But one that proclaims, “What does love demand?”
Love is patient and kind. It is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way, but rejoices with the truth. Sometimes, we need an authoritative voice to prod us into moving in the right direction. May each of us hear the mandate of our Lord who surely expects more of His followers.