It saddens me to see commercials of starving people in different parts of Africa, but not really because those people are starving. What saddens me most is that I know there are starving people just miles from my house. Maybe closer. Here we have national organizations so big they have budgets that can buy television advertising space to solicit funds to feed people in fourth and fifth world countries halfway across the globe.
Meanwhile, there are local food banks and shelters trying to save the lives of other Americans. But these people aren’t just any Americans. These are people from my state. These are people from my city. But these local organizations barely have a budget to help all who need. They rely on volunteers instead of paid staff. They rely on donations and could never afford advertising beyond the free ads they sometimes get in the local paper.
I am a firm believer that it is our responsibility to take care of those closest to us, both in proximity and relationally.
I believe Jesus felt the same way.
You will notice when He gave us (what is commonly referred to as) the Great Commission, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19), he told us what to do, but not how to do it. He tells us the how in Acts 1:8: “And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The first place he mentions is Jerusalem. Reading the context of Acts 1, we see that the disciples are already in Jerusalem when he gives them this command. To obey step one, they need only to step out the door. The people they first have a responsibility to witness to are their own kinfolk—other Jews living within the city limits.
The next place Jesus mentions is Judea. A small history lesson, Judea refers to a region west of the Jordan River, and Jerusalem is in the northern most part of Judea. Most of the inhabitants of Judea were Jewish, so the people of Judea shared a common heritage and religion. Bringing this into todays context, Judea would be a country. So by this ordering, after we meet the needs of people from our own city, or next responsibility is to the people in our country.
From there, Jesus tells us to witness to people in Samaria, which is the region north of Judea—a different country if you will. It is also important to note that Jews and Samaritans generally did not get along. This dislike can be seen through the Samaritan woman’s thoughts in John 4:9: “Jews refuse to have anything to do with Samaritans.” It also makes the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) that much more powerful. Through Jesus’ comment, we see that salvation is not a gift only for the Jews. In fact, Jesus wants us to reach out to those we may not even like! Brings back memories of Jonah… But again, we reach out to these neighbors of ours after we have taken care of people in our own country.
Finally, He gives us the general, “to the ends of the earth.” There is no place on this God-given planet that He does not want to see saved. When we get to heaven, it will be huge multi-cultural party as we are all His people, created in His image. We read many places where every tongue will confess and give praise to God (Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:11, Isaiah 45:23). I think the word tongue here has a double meaning. I think it means the obvious, that every person will confess Jesus is Lord, but I think it also means every language will pledge allegiance because every language group will be reached with the Gospel.
But we have to take it one step at a time. Start close—in your neighborhood perhaps. Then from there, spread outward.
I will give one word of caution to help you avoid discouragement. The greatest Teacher who ever walked the face of this earth could not reach everyone, as some refuse to hear the Word. If he could not reach everyone, you will not be able to either. But don’t be discouraged—just do what he did: “If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave” (Matthew 10:14).
All verses NLT.
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