Science in Christian Perspective
THE GREAT COMMISSION AND THE INTELLECTUAL
From: JASA 15 (December 1963): 123-124
A man once said, "In the USA if someone met a minister, he knew quite well what he was going to say, but if he met a layman he had no idea what the layman would discuss. So it is for the layman to spread abroad the good news of the gospel among his *acquaintances, where he works, be it office or factory or workshop' wherever it may be." As intellectuals we need to become more dedicated to this proposition today, not only putting our talents to use here in our own country, but also considering prayerfully the possibility of taking the Gospel to foreign lands.
As a freshman in college four-and-one-half years ago, I read an article in His Magazine that changed my life. Briefly, the content of it was that while missionaries had been going into the bush country of Africa and converting the natives for many years, the strategic battle was being lost in the cities because there were not many intellectual Christians to witness to the growing number of non-Christian Africans. God spoke to me right then, and I committed my life to serving Him somewhere in Africa. Even though some countries are closing their doors to missionaries who wear the cloth, the lay missionary can never be excluded unless that country wants to shut out foreign business interests.
I have become increasingly aware of the problem of nationalism and its effect on the witness of many Christians through a series of Bible studies in the Book of Jonah. The pastor posed one particularly interesting question: What would you do if you felt led to go to Moscow, to preach the Gospel to them, and to tell them that if they did not repent, they would soon be destroyed? Are we sufficiently obedient to God, concerned for the lost in Russia, and free of nationalistic entanglements that we would be willing to go? Jonah didn't want to go because he wanted to see Assyria destroyed before she destroyed Israel. Even after God made him go, he still hated the Assyrians and was deeply angry with God for forgiving them. God had to go to considerable trouble to teach Jonah a lesson. How deep do our love and concern for the Russians go? "There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, its endurance" (I Cor. 13:7, NEB).
There is another aspect to this question of nationalism. . . . Mission boards and churches would be better off today if missionaries had left their white man's ways and civilized codes of ethics at home, rather than taking them with them. Granted, many of the natives' customs were scripturally wrong and had to be changed when they were converted, but a large number of their habits were wrong only by our standards, not by God's. For example, I find nothing in the Bible that says that we need to be clothed with anything other than humility and salvation; shirts and trousers are merely the dictates of society. The imposition of unnecessary requirements upon converts is one reason why Christianity is considered by many Africans and Chinese to be a "white man's religion."
I would like to suggest, therefore, that people who become missionaries be prepared to identify themselves completely with the people to whom they are sent (I Cor. 9:22). This identification would extend to personal habits, food, the national language, and citizenship. I have heard the argument advanced that since Paul retained his Roman citizenship, American Christians should retain their U. S. citizenship; the rebuttal to this is that Paul never left the Roman Empire; we should not only be willing to leave the U. S., but to die in our adopted country.
We need to consider three things: (1) It is quite unlikely that God has really called 94% of the world's Christian workers to work among 9% of the population (The Log, His Magazine, 1/63, p. 38). (2) In a day when the number of pagans is far outstripping the number of Christians, the burden of proof is upon each one to show why he should not go to the area of greatest need-the foreign field. (3) The last and oddest of these facts is that nearly two thousand years after the delivery of our Great Commission (probably one of the most widely known verses in the Bible), there are still many millions who have never heard the Gospel. Oddly enough, also, very few of us feel called to go abroad except on vacations. Either God has changed, or else there is something wrong with us.-An Anonymous Christian