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What to Make of the Death of John Chau?

Recent headlines have drawn attention to the death of John Allen Chau, a 26 year old American missionary – who was killed by an indigenous tribe in India’s North Sentinel Island. This (he believed) was “Satan’s last stronghold.” And while the community he was connected with considered them to be an “uncontacted” people, we know now that they have had contact with the outside world. SO – His passing has made many people wonder “was it necessary for John to die?”

I did not know John, but as a guy who has gotten his own lumps along the way and seen many younger men launch out into the world, I would like to honor his life by offering perspective…because there are many.

The “modern” world (and I do mean that sarcastically) considers the way of Christ is outdated and unecessary – as they always have. Our technologically connected version of being modern often feels superior to us. But even the most casual student of history will realize that every iteration of what is “modern” thinks themselves to have advanced beyond the need for ancient wisdom. So then, being modern seems to be more valuable than knowing truth.

Another perspective is offered by those who admire John Chau’s convictions; much like the Muslim man I met on Sunday afternoon while watching a football game. He mentioned that his daughter asked about this missionary/evangelist, and that her friends thought Chau’s death was meaningless. My newly-minted friend disagreed, saying that Chau was a hero because he held to his convictions and did what he believed to be right. And while I can see how that resonates in the socially sensitive culture we live in, it esteems achievement over truth.

Yet, one other argument is one of culture and religion. Why would Christians think their religion should be fitting for a distant tribe? Isn’t that rude to tell them your way is better? …

In Ghana, there is a cemetery whose tomb stones are those of the original missionaries who troubled themselves for the gospel. There are no names on the tombstones. Only numbers. The numbers represent the number of days each missionary lived in Ghana until they died of disease or were killed by tribesmen. But, Ghanaians will tell you, the amazing thing about these missionaries is – the more they died, the more they came – and they are grateful for their positive impact and willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice.

The gospel of Jesus is as necessary today as it was ever was. It can never be outdated. And every follower of Jesus is called to be a missionary. Not because it honors our own convictions, but because it honors Christ who gave Himself for us.

We do not deserve God’s grace or love, yet God sent His only Son to save us all. Jesus did not come to die because of His convictions, but because it was necessary to bring the culture of heaven to all those who could be saved.

Food must be brought to all who are hungry and in need. Likewise, Jesus is the bread of life and must be brought to all who are perishing.

Whatever your opinion is of Chau, I urge you to honor him by acknowledging his willingness to step into the world of someone else. Not to conquer them out of religious zeal, but to show compassion.

And if you are still wondering whether or not Chau’s efforts were worthwhile or not, I leave you with this video from National Geographic. Jesus saves. And we are all better off with Him than without.

About the Author Jason Betler

Jason communicates for transformed lives. He is the founding evangelist for The Nations Hope and lead pastor of Life Tree Church in San Jose, California.

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