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“Teaching them to obey everything I commanded you”: The mission of peace in Korea

   

Nov 1, 2004
-by Tim Froese

 


Tim Froese, Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker in South Korea and Director of the Korea Anabaptist Center, told stories of his work to a full house (170 people) at Charleswood Mennonite Church on Remembrance Day, Nov 11. His presentation highlighted the inextricable connection of discipleship and peace. The Korean congregation of Charleswood MC catered a traditional Korean meal, which was complemented by live musical entertainment. The event was one in a series of Taste of Mennonite Church Canada events held across the country this year.

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Winnipeg, Man. — A close reading of the Great Commission reveals that only one command is given: to “make disciples." The method appears simple enough: "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” (Matthew 28:19, 20).

Baptizing seems obvious, but what are we to make of “teaching them to obey” or what some call “obedience oriented education”? In our individualistic world, how do we get someone to voluntarily obey Jesus' commands? And exactly what commands are we talking about?

Love the Lord

Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment and responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The first thing that we can do, then, as we consider making disciples is to ensure that our commitment to God is genuine and all inclusive. It has always surprised me that after Peter's amazing confession of Christ the disciples are ordered to silence and Peter is rebuked as the voice of Satan. His first confession of Christ lacked the understanding of the things of God and was therefore insufficient to accept Christ's death and suffering or anticipate His resurrection.

The Korea Anabaptist Center had its beginning in the invitation of the Korean people to learn from the Anabaptist tradition in order to bring renewal to the Korean Church and mission to Asia. In my work in Korea, I regularly meet people who hear about Anabaptism/Mennonites for the first time. Upon hearing the history, many tell me they are impressed by our “spirituality.” This response puzzled me for some time, since our Mennonite “spirituality” was tame in comparison to the fervent prayer and fasting and enthused praise singing of the Korean church.

As time passed, I perceived what was meant by spirituality was what we would call discipleship – the 24/7 living out of the Christian faith at home, school and office. True spirituality enables us to transform the worship service into the “service of worship” (Romans 12:1 2) wherein we present “our bodies as living sacrifices.” To fulfill the commandment to love God with our entire being is no less than what it means to be a disciple.

Love these

Great as the first commandment is, it is interesting to note the opinion of the New Testament writers regarding the commandment that is “like it” (“Love your neighbour as yourself.”) Paul calls it the summation and fulfillment of the entire law (Romans 13:9,10; Galatians 5:14) and James calls it the “royal law” (James 2:8).

Missiologist Jon Bonk has pointed out that for all of the grandiose mission plans that exist to evangelize the entire world, God never commanded Christians to love the entire world. We are, however, commanded to love four distinct groups of people: neighbour (Leviticus 19:18), enemy (Matthew 5:44), wife (Ephesians 5:25) and stranger (Romans 12:13, “hospitality” literally means “to love strangers”).

Mennonites first responded to Korea in 1952, during the Korean War. For the next 20 years, Mennonite Central Committee ministered there, in seven different activities. Today, 30 and 40 years after the fact, grown men search me out to express their profound thanks for the love and assistance given to them “while we were yet strangers.” As I consider these people whom I am commanded to love neighbour, enemy, wife and stranger I am able to put faces to my prayers and feet to my actions. I am also aware that where love exists in these relationships, the result is peace.

Although many of our Korean Christian friends have difficult with the Anabaptist commitment to non violent peacemaking, many non Christians have come to us because of their desire to get help in resolving conflicts. In the emerging post Christian Korean world, few non Christians are interested in hearing about Jesus. However, they are interested in finding peace and we have had more opportunity to explain our faith because of our commitment to peace than any other “typical” form of evangelism. To be a Christian and missionary in today’s interconnected but hostile world is to be an advocate for non violent peacemaking.

Love in community

Before leaving His disciples, Jesus gave them a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” The most common perception that Koreans have of Anabaptists is the emphasis on community. Said another way, the ability to form genuine and deep caring relations between people solely on the basis of a shared faith is extremely attractive.

One of the things most needed by those we are called to love – neighbour, enemy, wife and stranger – is precisely a community of welcome and caring. Jesus Himself added that, “by this all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) A neglected area of mission “strategy” is the power of attraction to a faithful and genuine witness.

The common element in these commandments is that we are continually called to love. Love is the most contextualized, most relevant form of mission there is.

Tim Froese is a Mennonite Church Canada Witness worker and director of the Korea Anabaptist Center (www.kac.or.kr). The Center’s mission is to live and proclaim a Christian faith that emphasizes discipleship, nonviolent peacemaking and Christian community. He and Karen, with their children Michelle, Lucas, and Stefan, recently returned to Winnipeg after six years in Seoul. They attend Jubilee Mennonite Church. This article first appeared in the MB Herald (Volume 43, No. 15 November 5, 2004)