I will never forget my first day at Pioneer Junior High in Walla Walla, Washington. My family had just moved to town and it was the first day of school. I was terrified, to say the least. All my fears of a new school were doubled when I walked into the lunchroom. With no one to sit by, I spent the first week totally alone during those 45 minutes each day. I felt like I was sticking out like a sore thumb; yet it was obvious I didn’t stick out since no one talked to me!
Walk into any school cafeteria and you will experience segregation. The jocks, the thugs, the nerds, the preps, the band geeks, and whatever else you call the various groups each occupy their own area. Each group is a nation unto themselves; seldom does anyone cross over into another group’s territory. I am even amazed at how kids who attend church together on Sunday and Wednesday find themselves avoiding each other during the week at school. It is as though each is living two lives, working hard to be sure the two never meet.
It is these situations that Jesus is talking about when he said his final words to the disciples in Matthew 28: 18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
When we read these words, we immediately assume that Jesus is telling us to go to foreign countries to share the love of Christ. While this is an important aspect of evangelism, we must remember that the work “nations” is translated from the Greek word “ethnos” which means ethnic group. In Jesus’ time, ethnic groups very seldom associated with each other. The challenge that Jesus is presenting in this passage is for the disciples to step outside their ethnic boundaries to share the Gospel with everyone.
You are probably wondering what this has to do with your lunchroom at school, or at the work, or anywhere else you may find yourself. Your school is a little like a mini-world, with lots of different groups of people who each spend most of their time with people who are very similar to themselves. If you think of each group in your school as an ethnic group, you will soon realize that our call as Christians is to bridge the gap between these groups and begin to share the love of Jesus Christ. We are to do this without regard to the group they are in.
You are probably thinking to yourself, “It would be a whole lot easier to go to Africa and share the Gospel than it would be to venture to the other side of the school cafeteria!” Remember though, the challenges Christ places before us are not meant to be easy; they are meant to be right and they are meant to be what is best for the Kingdom of God.
When I am called to break out of my comfort zone and venture to the uncomfortable waters of sharing Christ with someone I don’t know very well or who is not very much like me, I find strength in the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:20; “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Christ does call us out of what is easy into what is right, but we never have to go it alone. He is there with us, just a prayer away.
Here are 4 helpful tools to be used when crossing the barriers of your lunchroom and into sharing your faith:
- Be Prayed UpWe are reminded in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that we should “pray continually.” When we are venturing beyond what is comfortable, it is foolish to go it alone. We need to be prayed up and in touch with God. Pray for the strength to cross the barriers, pray to know what to say, pray that your words won’t fall on deaf ears, and pray for guidance in every aspect of your sharing. There are times we are going to feel like we have been a sheep fed to the lions; but if we are prayed up when we share we will come out stronger and better for the experience. And, we will have had the chance to share the love of Christ with someone else!
- Don’t Go It AloneIn Mark 6, Jesus sends his disciples out to preach the Gospel. When he did this, he did so by sending them two by two. Sure, more ground could have been covered if each were sent out alone, but the strength we receive when teamed with others helps us be stronger in our mission. Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10 says this: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! When you are crossing the barriers of your school and entering into new groups, you will need someone there to hold you accountable, to support you, and to help you share the love of Christ.Sometimes the best “someone else” comes from one of the other groups at school. This will help add credibility to your mission.
- Realize You May “Fail” (But, if it is in the name of Christ, is it really failure?)Take a look at the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13: 1-9, and you will realize that some of your words are going to fall on dear ears. But, that doesn’t mean you should give up! Remember, the goal of crossing group barriers in your school is to share with others that Jesus Christ loves them. Your words may be planted, but may not actually sprout for years. The very action of sharing with others, though, will speak louder than any words you can use.There will be times that you will be mocked for sharing outside your group. But, you will be in great company! Even Jesus was mocked for loving others.Our goal is not about receiving another star in our crown. It is about sharing with others the love of Christ that we have experienced. It is about breaking down the things that separate all God’s people from each other.When the disciples heard Christ command them to cross into other ethnic groups, they must have been terrified. For they knew that this could (and did!) result in ridicule and death. The sharing of the Gospel was and is so important that it is worth the risks we face.
- The Goal is Love!Matthew 22: 37-40 reminds us of the two greatest things God’s people are called to: 1) love God, and 2) love others. The very act of loving others is a way of showing our love towards God. 1 John 4:19-20 tells us that if we say we love God but hate our neighbor, then we are a liar. Hatred is simply the absence of love. When we love others and share with the love we have found in Christ, it is an outward expression of our love for God.Sometimes we may think that crossing the group barriers at our school is about raising school-spirit or making the school a better place. Those things are important and they will happen, but our first and foremost goal must be to share the love of Christ with those who have yet to accept it.
It is never easy to leave the comfort of our own group of friends to share with others. But, the call of Christ is clear. We must take the Gospel to those who have yet to hear, even though it means moving out of that which is easy and comfortable.
Originally Published April 3, 2003