“The Wrong End of the Spear”

I was sent an article related to the ridiculous controversy over the casting of openly gay actor Chad Allen to play Steve and Nate Saint in the End of the Spear. No other controversy has revealed just how obsessed the church is with being the moral police and trying to preserve its own pure image. Never mind that the Kingdom of God has come into our morally corrupt world, the church doesn’t want to go there . . . even though we’re stuck in it. Thankfully there are Christians speaking up for a more moderate approach to the situation.

Curiously enough, a movie about missionaries has prompted Christians to act quite unlike missionaries. Coming from the standpoint of a missionary, Jim Hendershot explains,

Okay, so once they [missionaries] understand the language and culture and have built relational bridges with the people, they begin to share the message of salvation. Now comes the interesting part—during this process, behavioral issues are very low in priority. Rather than being “sin police” the missionaries view themselves as ambassadors of Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). If they focus on behavioral problems, such as idolatry or sexual sin, it can be very counterproductive.
(read the whole article)

Oh. So if homosexuality is an accepted practice of the tribe, you shouldn’t fight that??? But what would we do with ourselves then? : )

Remember, it would have been well within the interest of the missionaries to teach the natives not to murder, but they didn’t. The Gospel was far more important. If we can at least agree that murder is a bigger problem than homosexuality, then perhaps we have a new perspective. In the grand scheme of things, our role is to understand culture, minister to people where they are, and when God prompts us, we share our source of life and hope. We certainly can tell people when they are engaging in activity that will estrange them from God, but I think a relationship with God is the necessary first step.

Jim goes on to say:

Christians are willing to go to tribal people, and seek to understand their culture. At the same time, our general approach to homosexuals is to avoid them at all costs. When we do interact, it’s to tell them how wrong they are, rather than trying to understand what has brought them to the place they are in this life. Instead of building relationships and sharing the gospel, we shout rude slogans, and tell them they are all going to hell because they are gay. Instead of realizing we are in a war for men’s souls, we say we are in a culture war, and treat homosexuals like the enemy.

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The Waodoni tribesmen murdered those original missionaries with simple spears. The missionaries, who had guns, did not shoot back. They were ready to meet the Lord while they knew the Waodoni were not. After the killings, family members of the murdered missionaries went back to the Waodoni to bring them the Good News, offering their own forgiveness along with God’s. The result? Many tribesmen were saved, and yes, their murderous behavior did change, but as a result of the Gospel, not as a pre-condition to receiving it.

I think it’s more than a matter for men’s souls, we are fighting spiritual forces in order to liberate all of creation from bondage to sin and separation from God. Nevertheless, I think that Jim is really on to something. It is incredibly ironic that we have completely missed out on missionary engagement with our contemporary culture, while celebrating the courage and passion of missionaries.

It reminds me of the Pharisees who honored the prophets, but when confronted with the prophet of all prophets, they didn’t like him any more than their ancestors did. We profess to love missionaries and support their work financially, but if we actually saw how the Gospel goes forth, some of us would surely become uneasy and may even hold back financial support. Besides, gas prices are so high these days.