Each of us is in a corner of the world the other can’t reach.
I can’t reach the people in a Georgia suburb like the people in the Georgia suburbs can.
I can’t reach the neighbor in southeast London like the people in southeast London can.
You can’t reach the people in northern Michigan like I can.
Social media has deceived us into believing we can change the whole world by shouting louder, by posting more, by adding to the cacophony of voices and opinions already overwhelming us. While I do believe speaking up matters (when it is guided by the Holy Spirit, and not by anxiety, proving others wrong, or an ever-restless cancel culture) most of our witness and work for the gospel doesn’t happen online. It happens in real life.
I am far more changed across a table from a living, Christ-loving human than I am through a pixelated screen, and so are you. And so is your neighbor.
But that change isn’t exactly the end goal. The goal, of course, is for people to experience Christ. Why? Because God made them, and His making left an immovable mark upon their soul. People seek meaning and purpose and spirituality because that mark remains, seeking to draw them back to their Maker. There is an innate need for purpose, meaning, and knowing why life is the way it is. As Christians, we have a framework to answer these questions, and our experience of a loving and holy God should motivate us to share him in our world.
Outward change wrought in people around us, then, is not the goal. But it is a byproduct of exposure to Jesus. When you meet Jesus, when you understand His love and sacrifice and what it cost for Him to give us grace, you desire to grow. You desire to have that peace. You desire to find that purpose in the midst of chaos and hurt and pain. Those desires are God-given, and they are drawing us to His heart.
So what’s the job, as a Christian? Your job – based on Matthew 28:20, in Jesus’ own words – is to make disciples of the nations. That starts with the nation you’re in. And let’s narrow that down further: it starts with the state you’re in, the province you’re in, the city you’re in, and the street you’re on. Making disciples is as simple as living life alongside people as they experience profound joy and the deepest pain. And when that joy needs sharing or that loss threatens to crush them, Christ, in you, is there. Truth in grace is there.
I’m not saying we rush into someone’s pain with a Bible and a Romans-Road gospel tract. But the gospel is truly the good news. Jesus thought so. (If we don’t think Jesus was right on this – that he really isn’t enough, or he never intended to be, well, we have bigger problems to deal with theologically.) The problems may not be erased, the pain may not be lifted, but we can point to the God who grieves with humans, who carried their pain once, but not only once.
John Wesley said the mission of the Christian is to “do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.” That sounds like a lot of work. But Wesley isn’t saying, ‘Fill up your calendar to the max and work until you can’t see straight.’ Wesley is saying: “Listen to the Spirit’s leading. Who can you love? Who can you serve? What obedience can you choose? How can you follow Christ today?”
Because really, we only have today. And we are given grace – favor and strength – just for the good we’re called to in this span of time, in this nation we’re in, in this city, on this street. You can’t reach everyone. But you can reach the ones God has given you.
So will you do it?