Totally Pickled (On Chicken and Pickles)

Remember when I said that I hate conflict? Sigh. I’m about to crack open the door for it right here. Are you ready? Consider this not so much a theological treatise (with which to whack) but a conversation starter -something to consider as you walk along the way. In fact, let me begin with a question deep enough in itself to give you pause before you consider the rest of my…query. How have you come about your understanding of Matthew 28:19-20? Have you arrived at your interpretation through careful study, or did you buy the party line? Not to suggest that the party line is wrong, per se, but did you accept it, without personal thought and inquiry, as the only right explanation? If so, go immediately and read Acts 17:11, then come back here to pick up where you left off. 

I know you’ll hardly believe it (eyes rolling here) when I tell you that I don’t buy the party line. But I’m not pedantic enough to believe that my interpretation is the only way to see the thing. I humbly submit my perspective for consideration.

Let’s see the whole of it:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Allow me to accelerate your exercise in hermeneutics if you haven’t already taken this passage apart for yourself. Jesus has just said that He possesses the authority, as the Apostles’ and disciples’ Teacher, Master and Lord, to give them the order to leave that place and as they go on their way to make disciples of the people they meet. In other words…’as you leave this place, win a following because you have followed me’.

Last time I wrote, I talked about the difference between being sauced and being marinated. Here it is again. Christ’s followers have been so completely saturated by all that He has been to them that they will go, and as they go, they will exude His essence and people will be drawn in. But the idea doesn’t end there. He also tells them to baptize these new followers. Read what “Strong’s Concordance” has to say about the word baptize as it is used here:

The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (baptô) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizô) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptising the vegetable, produces a permanent change. (Strong’s Concordance – G907)

When the apostles and disciples walked with Jesus, He didn’t just give them a saucing…He made sure the His words penetrated. He made sure His people were pickled. And He expects us to ensure the same for those who follow us.

OK. So let me ask you, how long do you think it takes to make a pickle?? A day? A week? The duration of a short –term mission trip? Ah…and there are your toes I just stepped on. Dance over?

Listen, I personally don’t like the short-term “mission” trip for many reasons, but this is the primary one, and it bleeds over to color every other reason I have for my distaste. Granted, I’ll say it again, I’m not so arrogant as to think mine is the only perspective on the issue. But this is mine, and I’m sharing it as food for thought. In short: it takes time to make a pickle. To truly immerse someone in all that is The Name takes more than us jetting in for a 10 day Hilton Hotel stay with day trips to the dump. Investing in someone long enough to completely infuse their lives with the essence of God requires a commitment of epic proportions.

Jesus, our example, didn’t dunk and run. He stayed. He walked. He talked. He ate and drank. He slept. He wept. He got in and out of boats. He roasted fish. He partied. He grieved. He prayed. He lived with His disciples day and night, baptizing them in The Name, and teaching them to obey…and He was with them even to the end. He didn’t have to jet anywhere. He wasn’t concerned with the natives in North America (well, I’m sure He was, but hang with me…). He saw His place among His people and as he went among them, He made pickles. And those pickles made more pickles because they in turn reached their people as they went. Baptizing them and teaching them. Teaching and baptizing with more than words (whack dunk) but by example. Through relationship. With the people in their own sphere of influence. Which eventually reached all the nations (or nearly all…we’re still working on that as we go!).

See, you don’t have to leave home to reach the nations. In fact, the custom of doing so has created a false subconscious belief that spreading the gospel is a glamorous and romantic journey of high adventure, and one done only sporadically when we are feeling especially spiritual. It’s a fad of the most dangerous kind, leaving the thinnest saucing on the people we encounter on our high adventure. As we depart the plains of Africa, we leave the natives to set up a token cross among their other idols because we aren’t there to show them a better way. We can’t offer them a more complete teaching. We don’t allow them time to savor the marinade. And in the mean time, the ordinary people who are with us daily as we go, are overlooked, ignored and remain unchanged. 

What I hear Jesus telling His men (and us) instead was… to just…go home. He said to go on from there and do the thing with the people they love and the people they encounter on the way. And love them like He did. And teach them what He taught. And let them soak up all that He is through all they’ve become because of having spent time with Him. And invest the time it takes to make it happen. It isn’t glamorous. It isn’t romantic. It isn’t sporadic. But it is high adventure of epic proportions!

So, as you go today…to the grocery, the dentist, to work, to school, to the gym…remember chicken and pickles. Don’t go around wantonly saucing and think that your work here is done. Give ‘em a good soaking in the name of Christ.