When Jesus told his disciples to go, they took him seriously. They went. They left their homes and communities and took the message out. They left to make disciples of all nations. Those of us who follow Jesus today are beneficiaries of these first disciples. We owe them a debt. They set the tone for Jesus’ disciples over the centuries. To follow Jesus involves going. It involves helping others become his disciples. Christianity is, at its core, a missionary religion. It’s spread by the followers of Jesus going either next door or to the next continent to make disciples.

Followers of Jesus have embraced this teaching over the centuries. Paul, the apostle, was one of the first and one of the greatest to go. Patricius of England became Saint Patrick of Ireland because he chose to go in response to God’s calling. David Livingstone went to Africa to make disciples of all nations and thanks to his pioneering work and the efforts of many others, millions of Africans are now disciples of Jesus. Their influence is broad.

Nelson Mandela was formed in his faith and his ability to forgive during his time in a Methodist grammar school. Taking seriously the call to make disciples of all nations, in this case being the Xhosa tribe of South Africa, resulted in a leader who stressed forgiveness and unity despite spending 28 years in a prison for his political beliefs. Mandela led South Africa through a perilous journey towards freedom and staved off what many felt would be a time of mass bloodshed and loss of life. Why? Because the teachings of Jesus infiltrated his young life. He heard those teachings because someone took seriously Jesus’ word to “go.”

How about you? Do you take those words seriously? Where can you go? Perhaps there is a young Mandela in your path, down the road, ready for the words of Jesus.