one of the farmers told that the foreigner was a good man – if only he would
become a Muslim then he would be fine. I asked the farmer why the foreigner
should become a Muslim and he replied, “So he can pray to God!” “He already
prays to God” I replied. Then I asked the farmer a leading question: “Can you
think of any reason this foreigner would want to become a Muslim that would
benefit him over being a Christian believer?” There are quick and easy answers
to that question for Muslim evangelists, but the farmer said he would think
about it and we would talk again the next time I came to his farm. I look
forward to that.
Reflecting on the question I asked, however, I wonder – was I insinuating that a valid reason for being a Christian was personal benefit? Was I to some degree preaching Christ because it benefits me and do I desire others to become like me so as to share in the benefits?
Serving in the mission field does not necessarily mean leaving your country and travelling to some 3rd world country, bringing your “foreign” culture and clothes with you, preaching from your own variety of theological background and asking people to repeat the same words that you did when you became a Christian. It’s not necessarily helping others to memorize your “Christian phrases” and to mimic your style of worship.
We can tend to preach a type of Christianity that satisfies ourselves. Living in other cultures and places with mind-sets very different than ours (and I presume in North America too) we risk reaching a point when we put our head on the pillow and look back over the day and can identify moments when we showed other people that they were wrong. We can tend to spread a gospel that makes us feels right and other people wrong! We may corrupt Jesus’ teachings by promoting a Christianity that makes ourselves feel comfortable and yes, maybe even a little superior.
I used to think that a goal of my Christian faith was to make me feel good and to help me live in such a way to increase my understanding and give me ways to improve myself and be satisfied with growth in spiritual knowledge and action. I was, however, forgetting that the central message of Christianity is abandonment of self!
Preaching the Gospel rarely leads to fairy tale endings such as a whole village turning to Christ. Spreading the good news is not simply telling an emotional or romantic story about some poor humble guy had nothing else to do but live a moral life and then give it up for some sinners. It is not primarily a means of self-improvement. It’s not a ‘Once upon a time’ and ‘lived happily ever after’ type of guarantee.
Two months ago, something happened that challenged my view of mission work
child. It was my friend’s fault, and he turned himself into the police right
away. In this culture, one would expect that the dead child’s father would
exact from my friend everything he could based on the law – blood money for the death of a son. However, the very first thing the bereaved father did after
the doctors told him his child was dead was go to the police station where my
friend had turned himself in and release him with full forgiveness! Yes he
forgave the person that killed his own son! Just like God the father forgives
us, the ones responsible for crucifying His Son.
When I heard the story I sat down and looked at the dead child’s father,
stunned. I noted his long black beard and his old gray dress and the small hat on his head, all typical dress for devout Muslims in this culture. Like most others here, this man is a devoted Muslim who wakes up at sunrise every single day to pray, prays 5 times a day every day, pays some of his income to the local mosque, loves his family and most likely feels satisfied being a Muslim.
However, I learned that men like him show more forgiveness than many of us
(do you experience such profound forgiveness from God that you will forgive
the one who just killed your child?)! Menlike him show more love than many
of us (will you love your enemy to the level of selflessly helping him?)!
So, what should we preach to people like that man? Are we going to preach that becoming a Christian will enable him to show the love and forgiveness of God?This man already does. Are we going to preach about the fruit of the Holy Spirit? This man has shown signs of that fruit already, without a saving knowledge of Jesus and His Holy Spirit. What about preaching some Christian morals? He has displayed praiseworthy morals, especially compared with what he sees expressed in Hollywood (ostensibly, all representations from Hollywood exemplify ‘Christianity’)! Are we going to say that Jesus died to give him a better life? Or make him a better person? For this man already lives the best life he can imagine, and by his standards and those of his community he is a great person
I am still struggling with all these questions, and I certainly am challenged
to evaluate again if I am preaching a different Jesus than the one mentioned
in the bible. Challenged again to lay my life before Him, and humbly accept
that my goals are to live for Christ, and preach Him only, being very careful
not to preach my understanding of Him. God is strong, but we are weak; our message to the lost is only of value if it directs others to God and not to
ourselves. We must realize that Christianity is all about Jesus being the
supreme God who created earth and heavens. He is the God who breaks
barriers to show His love to all people, even in weakness, humility and death.
Please let’s not under-estimate our Lord and never turn Him into only a romantic story by trying to make people feeling sorry for the wounds and suffering of Jesus!!! We must avoid cheap caricatures of Christianity that lean on our own understanding but fail to point to the exalted revelation of God in His Son Jesus. You and I must not preach anything less than a God-centered, Christ-exalting, self-denying gospel. We dare not presume to have all the answers for those seeking God. We must not try to make others think like us and be like us. But we do know the King Eternal and we may and we must bring others to the Throne of Grace and introduce them to King Jesus, who makesall things new– in your neighborhood and here in the Middle East – in His time.