Vessels of Mission
Jesus Appears to the Disciples1
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Let Jesus be cursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
Politics and Religion often walk hand in hand, whether we desire then to or not. It is not always the positions that show such alignment but rather the questions and concerns, because both institutions deal with meeting the needs of, and leading people… and often the same people. Today, the partisan politics of our nation is accompanied by a kind of “Partisan Theology” in the church. The line in the sand is old, so old that it looks like a canyon today. The signs marking each side have been written, overwritten, torn down, built new, reconstructed with and to look like the original building material, and scarred by deconstruction from within. You would think by now we would have figured out that there is no victory to be won here.
The old names for these sides were addressed by Jesus and named “Love of God” and “Love of Neighbor”. If the devil’s greatest trick was convincing the world he does not exist, his second greatest trick was convincing us that we have to choose which one of these commandments outranks the other. The opponents of Jesus always painted these two commands in conflict with one another… and yet, Jesus always found the intersection – the crosspoint – between the two commands. When we settle for campgrounds with names like “liberal”or “Conservative” we show ourselves too lazy to do the difficult work of discerning the gospel response that loves God and our neighbor2 in ways that are appropriate to each. This is not an easy task for those of us who are not Jesus.
This may be one of the greatest purposes of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The gifts of the Spirit, all working together, are the very thing that enable us to do this very thing: Love God and Love others. The Spirit of God will lead us to that cross every time. That is our mission. The task of making disciples of Jesus, saving souls, bringing healing to the world… all of this is fueled by the twin, intersecting streams of Loving God and Loving our Neighbor.
As a final note, I find it curious that John sums up the purpose of the Holy Spirit as the forgiveness of sin, which might sound like a point for team Love God. However, in a theological conundrum, John puts the responsibility for this forgiveness not with God (Who can forgive sins but God alone?) but with those who carry His Spirit. So it is, the only way sins will be forgiven is if we love our neighbors and forgive them ourselves. We cannot twist out of the difficulty, and we cannot hope to accomplish any of it without the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us.
- (Lk 24:36–43; 1 Cor 15:5) ↩
- For instruction on how to determine if a person is your ‘’neighbor” or not, see: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+10%3A25-37 ↩