As part of our Mission Statement Series, the past two weeks we’ve talked about the concept of reaching others for Christ. Earlier this week, I was reading about the life of John Chrysostom, an early Archbishop of Constantinople (349-407 AD), and I stumbled across a translation of one of his sermons titled, Every Christian an Evangelist.
I was edified and challenged by what Chrysostom was preaching more than 1500 years ago. We share the same mission. We share the same temptations. Here is a selection from his sermon:
There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not work for the salvation of others. You cannot use poverty as an excuse; the widow who threw her two small coins will accuse you (Luke 21:2-4). Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none” (Acts 3:6). Paul was so poor, he often went hungry and lacked even necessary food (Philippians 4:12). And being lower-class by birth is no excuse either. The apostles were obscure men from obscure families. Or are you uneducated? There is no excuse. The apostles were illiterate (Acts 4:13). Are you weak in body? That is no excuse. Timothy was a person who suffered from frequent illnesses (1 Timothy 5:23). Everyone can serve his neighbor if he is willing to play his part.
Look at the trees which bear no fruit. See how strong and majestic and smooth and tall they are. But if we had a garden, we would much rather have pomegranates and fruitful olive trees. The tall fruitless trees are pleasing to the eye but they are of no practical use, or very little. They are like people who are concerned only about themselves. Such people are fit for burning! (At least trees are useful for shelter and making houses out of them.) Such self-centered people were the foolish virgins, who were chaste, discreet and self-controlled, but did not serve others (Matthew 25:1-13). Therefore they were delivered over for burning. Such also were those who did not feed Christ (Matthew 25: 41-46). Christ does not accuse them of personal sins, adultery, swearing falsely, or anything like that; He merely accuses them of not being of any practical service to others. Such a self-centered person was the man who buried his talent (Luke 19:11-28). His private life was spotless—but he never served his neighbor. How can such a person be a Christian? I ask you, if you mixed leaven with flour but it did not make it rise, would it still be leaven? If a perfume did not fill a room with fragrance, would we still call it perfume?
Don’t tell me, “It is impossible for me to influence others.” If you are a Christian, it is impossible for you not to influence others! Just as the elements that make up your human nature do not contradict each other, so also in this matter—it belongs to the very nature of a Christian that he influenced others. So do not offend God. If you say, “The sun cannot shine,” you offend Him. If you say, “I, a Christian, cannot be of service to others,” you have offended Him and called Him a liar. It is easier for the sun not to shine than for a Christian not to give light. So don’t tell me it is impossible for you as a Christian to influence others, when it is the opposite which is really impossible. Do not offend God. If we arrange our affairs in an orderly manner, these thing will certainly follow quite naturally. It is not possible for a Christian’s light to lie concealed. So brilliant a lamp cannot be hidden!
“And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2