Clean water from a well provided by missionaries
(…continued) Now, back to the critics. There are those who say we should not do this anymore. We should not interfere with these primitive people with our modern technology and our religion. Rather, we should respect their culture and who they are and stay away. Brilliant university professors say this, articulate journalists say this, and enlightened people of all kinds in the modern world say this.
Do you want to know who hardly ever says this sort of thing? The people who are helped by the missionaries. The mothers who no longer have to see their children die from diarrhea, or go blind because of bad water– because they can now be healed with simple and inexpensive medications brought by the missionaries. The people who no longer have to walk three miles for clean water because a missionary organization has drilled a well for them. The men who receive metal knives and axes for their hunting and building, instead of the old, dull stone tools. Farmers, who with a few instructions, can improve their crops by ten-fold, and save their families from starvation. The children who can go to school, and then to the university, and then come back and be doctors and teachers for their own people. These people are grateful for the missionaries’ presence among them.
I have talked to many of these people, who as children, were born into primitive tribes, but were then given the opportunity, by missionaries, to learn and stay healthy and eat well. And they are puzzled and upset when they come this country to go to the university; and there they learn from comfortable, tenured professors about how bad the missionaries have been. But these students are not mad at the missionaries. They are grateful for what the missionaries brought to their people. Of course, there have been mistakes in the mission enterprise, but these Christian missionaries, many who gave their lives like John Allen Chau, have changed the lives of hundreds of millions for the better. And this is not yet even mentioning the most important thing they bring—the Gospel.
As Christians, we believe it is important that everyone hear about and have the opportunity to believe in Jesus. We believe that is important because first of all, we believe that Jesus is God, and we should do what God wants us to do. And God wants us to tell everyone the Good News of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. And secondly, we believe that in Christ we have the hope and promise of eternal life. Therefore, people like John Allen Chau, St. Boniface, and Bruce Olson believed it was worth risking their own brief earthly life to bring that message of eternal life in Christ to those who have not yet heard it.
A wide-spread opinion these days is that all religions are the same and it doesn’t matter what you believe. People who say that oftentimes mean that all religions are the same in that they are all equally false. Firm believers of every faith don’t say that. They know that different religions say very different things, they believe in the truth of what they believe, and they are willing to make the case for why they believe it. I would much prefer a brisk debate with a believing Muslim, than a patronizing pat on the head from an enlightened modern who believes nothing, but lovingly assures us that all religious people believe the same thing anyway. My Muslim friend and I would both say to him, “No we don’t.”
The Church’s mission enterprise to take the Gospel into all the world is not interested in the uninformed opinions of its critics. It might sound nice and open minded and modern and all that to say that all religions are the same and it doesn’t matter what you believe. But as my old seminary professor used to say, “That ain’t what the book says, boys and girls.” What book? The only book that tells a historically true story of a man who came back from the dead, and who then said he can do that also for me. I know of no other such book as the Bible, and no other such offer as eternal life in Jesus Christ. Now, of course, God can and will save whoever He wants to save, and His grace truly is amazing. But God is still God, and we should do what he says. And God says “Go into all the world, making disciples of all nations, telling them about Jesus, and baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 10:42 — (Jesus said), “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
John 15:12-13 — (Jesus said), “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Matthew 28:19 — (Jesus said), “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.”
O God of all the nations of the earth, remember the multitudes who, though created in thine image, they have not known thee, nor the dying of thy Son; and grant that by the prayers and labors of thy holy church they may be delivered from all superstition and unbelief and brought to worship thee; through him who thou hast sent to be the resurrection and the life to all men, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–Francis Xavier, Missionary to India, Japan, and Borneo (1506-1552)