The sad death of the 26 year old American evangelist John Allen Chau in the North Sentinel Island last month has aroused the passion of many around world in one way or other. Many chose to condemn the efforts of this budding missionary, but some others took a balanced view and thus refused to denounce the commitment of Chau. No doubt in his eagerness to share the love of Christ with the unreached and hostile Sentinelse tribe he broke many rules of the land. Naturally, the security agencies will find him guilty of many violations and he did pay the price for that. Activists who stand for the protection of the ‘endangered tribes’ also will be against any such efforts.
Worthless to the world
John Allen Chau himself knew very well of the response of the public. He wrote, “you may think I am crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people.” Yes, anyone who does not understand and follow the teachings of Christ will find it meaningless and even foolishness. But as Christians who share the same value and concern, what should be our view of the whole episode?
When Jim Elliot and other four missionaries were killed mercilessly by the Auca tribes in Ecuador on 8 January 1956, the response was the same. But after so many years we have seen the outcome of that martyrdom. That painful event led to the transformation of those murderers even the entire tribe. History very well establishes the truth, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.’
At this juncture, without going to the controversial aspects especially the legal and security matters, let us consider what prompted John Allen Chau to travel to such a long distance risking his life to share the gospel with a very aggressive people group. Four things come to my attention.
1. He took the great commission of Christ really seriously.
While commanding His disciples to go in to all the world and preach the good news of His love, Christ spoke of every nation and even all creation. Matthew 28:19, 20; Mark 16:15. Chau realized the need to communicate the message of Christ with all the people groups that includes this tribe. Notice what he wrote in his journal, “this is not a pointless thing. The eternal lives of this tribe is at hand and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshipping in their own language as Reve 7:9, 10 states”. He understood that God’s eternal plan of redemption includes every tribe and nation and that reality prepared him even to die for that cause.
Is it not because of such zeal and dedication of the followers of Christ in the past that people who lived in utter darkness were led to the marvelous light of God. It was the effort of those missionaries that many evil inhuman practices like sati and cannibalism were abolished. People who lived in the remotest part in the most pathetic conditions could access modern education, health care, justice system etc. People like Chau felt, just as we enjoy life, God wants these illiterate tribes also come to out of gloom and enjoy new life in Christ. Cf. Matthew 4:14, 15; 1Peter 2:9, 10.
2. He valued every human being even the most primitive tribe.
The Lord Jesus said, “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Mark 8:36.The Lord Jesus saw every human being as the precious, everlasting soul which is more valuable than the whole world. That is the reason why He came purposely to meet the Samaritan woman, the demon possessed man, etc. The society had already branded them as outcasts and abnormal. The Lord Jesus loved and sympathized with the marginalized and the downtrodden. Above all, He died as an atoning sacrifice for sins of the entire humanity.
John Allen was gripped by this value and love of Jesus Christ. That’s why he wrote, “Please do not be angry at them or God, if I get killed”. Just like the Lord Jesus He also prayed that God may forgive the boy and the others who shot arrows at him. He had no enmity or hatred against those who attacked them. He repeatedly yelled at them saying, “I am John, I love you, Jesus loves you.”
He had only one desire that was so strong within him, that he ought to share the love of Christ to these helpless, ignorant people. Do we have such love and concern for strangers, the poor, the uninformed and the illiterate etc?
Sad to notice today people are concerned about animals but least bothered about the suffering human being.
3. He considered evangelism as his bounden duty.
He too had natural human fears. He wrote in his journal just before his final effort, “I am scared, I don’t want to die, would it be wiser to leave and let someone else take my place.” But he found no one else to take his place! What inspired him even after having this feeling of hesitation to go forward to the possible death? According to the latest reports the investigating officers suspect the involvement of few others. We don’t know, but one thing is very clear from his writings that he was so captured by the values Christ and His faithful preachers dearly held.
When we notice the public ministry of the Lord Jesus we can find a pressure up on Him. Once He said, "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent." Luke 4:43. On another occasion He says, “we must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:43. Notice the sense urgency and compulsion the Lord felt in connection with the His work.
Even as He was about to be arrested and crucified, Christ prayed, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."Matthew 26:39. We see the similar feeling in Chau when he wrote, “I am scared”, yet he willingly proceeded with his mission.
Example of Paul
Apostle Paul had also similar feelings even as he was propagating the gospel, bearing all kinds of afflictions. He writes, “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.” 1Corinthians 9:16, 17. He felt, even if he does not feel comfortable in preaching the gospel he has to do, no other option. Who was behind him, who inspired him so much? It was nothing but the love and life of Christ.
Sitting in the city of Corinth he jotted, “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1: 14 – 16. No wonder Paul travelled long distances and suffered so much to present Christ to the then world.
The unbelievers will never understand the motive behind the preaching the gospel. For them it’s foolishness, waste and unnecessary. They have not understood the truth of the gospel, the teachings of Christ. But what about we who claim to follow Christ? How seriously do we consider the communication of the gospel as our duty?
The four lepers who found plenty of food and other resources outside the famine-stricken Samaria said it poignantly, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore, come, let us go and tell the king's household." 2Kings 7:9.
Such sense of duty and necessity must be felt when it comes to spreading the gospel. For it's food to those who are spiritually hungry, remedy for the sick, riches for the poor, and light for those who are in darkness. There is no other gospel, no other hope for the hopeless world.
4. He was conscious of the uncertainty of the present world.
Allen Chau wrote, “None of you love anything in this world more than Jesus Christ”. This is the true New Testament demand for a child of God. The Lord Jesus said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:37. He demands absolute loyalty and consecration. That does not mean to forsake dear ones, but more than anything else to have a love and affection for Christ. To Peter the Lord asked after His resurrection, “do you love Me more than these?" John 21:15. Such faithful devotion Christ expects from His followers. Allen truly followed this demands of Christ; he loved the Lord more than anything else in this world, even his own life.
Unseen are eternal :
As Paul mentions in 2Corinthinsa 4:18, Chau looked at things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are temporary and the things that are unseen are eternal. Apostle John too states the same, “the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1John 2:17. Allen completely followed the scriptural instructions and looked forward to the day when myriads of saints from every corner will praise and worship in eternity.
It was in this hope he wrote, “I’ll see you again when you pass through veil...”. He writes further, “Please live your lives in obedience to where He has called you to…” Yes, that is the most essential thing; fulfill God’s will in this short span of life. That he has accomplished and reached the very presence of Christ whom he served so fervently.
John Allen Chau, though dead, silently challenges all of us to consider these truths seriously before it's too late. The martyrdom of the five missionaries in the jungles of Ecuador, sixty four years ago inspired many generations all over the world for vigorous mission work. Similarly, may the Lord use the sacrifice of this young brother to revive the people of God around the globe. And let's too prayerfully make sure that the blood shed on the shore of North Sentinel Island on this November 17 does not go waste.