Great commandment vs great commission
Two commandments guide a Christian’s response to human need. The first is the Great Commandment – Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The second is the Great Commission – Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel.”
THESE SCRIPTURES are often interpreted as being outworked either through humanitarian efforts (Mark 12) or evangelism and spiritual ministry (Mark 16). But, which need should one prioritise?
Mission organisations prioritise the Great Commission. After all, a person with a full belly will still go to hell unless they are saved! This is true, but sadly, during the past 50 years, many evangelical churches and some mission agencies have turned away the ‘social gospel’.
Humanitarian organisations prioritise the Great Commandment. They focus on the Biblically-based concern for human rights, suffering, poverty relief and justice for the marginalised and oppressed; however, sometimes to the exclusion of emphasising spiritual rebirth.
A careful reading of the two scriptures reveals that Jesus is saying a very similar thing in two different ways, implying that the response from us should be virtually the same. In Mark 12, Jesus seems to be saying that we show our love for God when we care for, help and love people. Loving people includes telling them about Jesus!
Spiritual poverty must be addressed just as physical needs are. It isn’t fair that so many communities have been saturated with the Gospel while others have never heard Jesus’ name.
In Mark 16 we’re told to preach, but how do we preach? Our words should be accompanied by miracles that confirm them as well as acts of kindness. As a suffering person once said: “Don’t tell me how much God loves me until you show me how much you care.” Jesus tells us to make disciples. Without caring practically, we can never say we are truly “making disciples” because people copy what their leaders do. Similarly, without being prepared to “go into all the world” we will never be able to say we truly love our neighbor or truly love God!
So, those who relieve human suffering in Christ’s name are also preaching the Gospel, and those who focus on meeting spiritual needs are also involved in setting free the oppressed.
World Outreach International (WOI) aims to obey both commands in our approach to mission, striving to see the ministries of humanitarian assistance and evangelism working together to fulfil God’s plan for redeeming the world and His Kingdom being established.
Please help us by praying, giving and going where the needs are greatest; to places that cause God’s heart to ache and, especially, where children suffer.
Peter van der Westhuyzen
Children’s Ministry Coordinator