3. Jesus is already with people – ‘Christians’ and ‘non-Christians’ – whether people know it or not. 

Dave Andrews

The third thing I could see clearly when I took the plank of self-righteousness out of my eye was:

3. Jesus is already with people – ‘Christians’ and ‘non-Christians’ – whether people know it or not. 

Paul says: ‘For by (Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him, and in him all things hold together.’                                                                          (Colossians.1:16-17)

John says: ‘Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of humankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not put it out it… the true light that gives light to every person coming into the world’. (John.1:3-5,9)

When I say Jesus is already with people whether they know it or not, let me explain what I mean. There are two major texts in Matthew’s gospel from we Christians draw our theology of mission:

1. The First Major Text is in Matthew 28:

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Question- Where would you locate Jesus in this theology – with us or them?

Answer – With us

2. The Second Major is in Matthew 25

34″Then the King will say, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37″Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40″The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers (and sisters) of mine, you did for me.’

Question- Where would you locate Jesus in this theology – with us or them?

Answer – With them.

Now both of these perspectives are correct. But the trouble is evangelicals have tended to develop our theology for missions based on Matthew 28 – to the exclusion of Matthew 25. Which means it is easy to for us see ourselves as people with Jesus, but it is much more difficult for us to see others – especially strangers with strange beliefs and behaviours – as people Jesus is with.


Christians often say to non-Christians, ’Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 4.16) But we neglect the Way Jesus related to people in other religious traditions, forget the Truth Jesus embodied that cannot be contained by any religion, including our own, and ignore the Life Jesus offers to all people even non-Christians.

As a Christian I would argue Jesus did not intend to start a religion – still less a monopolistic religion that saw itself in competition with other religions. Jesus said he simply came ‘to bring life and life in all its fullness’ (see John 10:10). Thus he would affirm all that is life-affirming and confront all that is life-negating in the world’s religions – especially in the religion that now bears his name.

Jesus criticized people of all religions – including his own – of promoting domineering leadership of others (Mark 10:42-43); acting as closed groups that are not open to others (Matt. 5:47); and practicing empty traditions which demonstrate no practical compassion for others. (Matt.6:7) 

Jesus appreciated God was bigger than his religion and worked in the lives of people of other religions – like Naaman the Syrian, who was healed of leprosy, when many Jews weren’t. (Luke 4.16-30)…

Jesus appreciated people of other religions could not only have great faith, but greater faith than people of his own religion – like the Syrophoe-nician Woman, whose feisty faith he was confronted with. (Matt. 7:24-30)…

And Jesus appreciated people of other religions could be better examples of true religion than even the leaders of his own religion – like the ‘Good Samaritan’. (Luke 10.29-37) …

It is my view that the way Jesus related as a Jew to a Samaritan woman at the well (Jn:4:4-42) is paradigmatic for the way Christians and Muslims should relate to each other. According to Jesus both Christians and Muslims need to:

  1. Recognise how much we owe to Jews who came before us. (Jn.4:22)
  2. Acknowledge particularities – distinct rituals of worship (Jn.4;19-21)
  3. Affirm universalities – all true believers worship in truth (Jn.4:23)
  4. Never denigrate others  – ‘don’t call down fire’ on them (Lk.9:54-5)
  5. Take a conciliatory approach – ‘if not against you, for you’ (Lk.9:50)
  6. Always accept hospitality – share food and drink together (Jn.4:7)
  7. Practice respectful dialogue – explore the significance of Isa/Jesus as     the Masih/Messiah – but don’t expect others to change religion (Jn.4)

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