Sunday, December 9, 2018

John Chau's Lingering Question

Missionary and martyr John Chau wrote in his journal that he didn't want to die, and then asked, “Who will take my place if I do?”

It's a powerful question because the North Sentinelese people still need to know about Jesus.

Many don't understand the death of John Chau. Some Christians have also expressed bewilderment. The reaction to a slain missionary is different today than it was 60 years ago. For a variety of reasons, many simply see his death as a loss.

While John Chau indeed lost his earthly life, this is a net gain for him. No martyr is perfect, and it's easy to say how we'd tweak this or that from what we've heard from second-hand reports, but at the end of the day, this man laid down his life to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to these people. According to Jesus, there is “no greater love” than that (John 15:13).

This may be a net gain for God's eternal kingdom, too. God seems to have set up this world to honor the shed blood of martyrs. Before there was the Apostle Paul there was Stephen. Before the discovery of the New World and the founding of America there were French Huguenot martyrs. Before New Tribes Mission grew to 3,000 missionaries, God planted five seeds. Jim Eliot and his friends paved the way for the Gospel in South America. The shedding of innocent blood has been significant since the days of Abel and remains so today.

One common misperception about tribal people is worth correcting. Chau's critics claim for the Sentinelese “contact with outsiders could irreparably alter their lives and culture.” As if life in the jungle amid mosquitos, malaria, fear, death, and short life spans is something to be envied. If you live in so much fear that your first instinct on seeing another human being is to kill them, and you do so, then altering that culture would be a very good thing.

I think the most beautiful part of the John Chau story is that he hired fishermen for the very last leg of his journey to the people he wanted to reach. Jesus' disciples were fisherman, and he told them, “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17). He made John Chau a fisher of men, too.

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