16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go.17 When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. 18 Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.” Matthew 28:16-20
Over the past few days we’ve talked a lot about “the prodigal son” or, as I like to call the story, “the merciful father”. We talked about how this is not a story about our future. It’s not telling us to avoid being a prodigal son or how to recover from being a prodigal son. Instead, it’s telling us that we have a loving, merciful father who accepts us even with our regrettable pasts, character defects, and other such things. Once we can acknowledge that, internalize it, and believe it, we’re left wondering, “Well, where do I go from here?”
We don’t want to fall into past habits or patterns. We don’t want to go back to repeating the same mistakes over and over again hoping for different results. We don’t want to keep being lost just so we can, once again, be found. (Though it’s important to know that even if this happens, God is big enough to accept us still.)
Jesus’ words to his disciples at the end of Matthew chart our course from here forward. Essentially, they teach us to continue striving to live in God’s image in the context of faithful community. We work together through accountable relationships, acts of worship, and whatever else, to pursue discipleship (discipleship = living in God’s image). This is a messy process. It won’t go perfectly. But it doesn’t have to. Our community keeps us within the boundaries, gives us perspective, and helps us stick to the path. It’s not about perfection, it’s about continuing to walk in the same direction even though we’ll trip, stumble, fall, backtrack, and more while we’re on this journey.
And that’s okay. God’s big enough for that too.