Advancing the Conversation of Jesus
Can you really believe that this Middle Eastern message of the Good News of Jesus and the Kingdom is owned by Western Christians and that all others around the world must become Christian in order to have eternal life? How haughty we are?
The greatest damage here is that Christians take on the attitude that they are the only ones who are right and therefore the only ones who will receive salvation from God. The secondary damage is that missionary organizations actually stir up more persecution than might have been. When missionaries insist on the natives “converting” to Christianity and to denounce their culture, they have the wrong goal. Of course, members of non-Christian cultures are threatened by this approach and react badly. What’s worse is that they miss out on Jesus! Jesus is not the issue in those encounters; cultural conversion is!
I’m convinced that much of the persecution on the mission field is unnecessary. We are finding that when you make Jesus the issue and not religious conversion, there is an amazingly positive reception to Jesus. It’s the same reception Jesus had among the non-Jewish encounters He had. Jesus is for the entire world. Jesus never urged anyone to become a part of a Christian culture or to join a Synagogue or Church. His only concern seems to be the person’s heart of faith and the subsequent act of whether or not the person becomes a follower of Jesus. Jesus made it a habit of reaching out to people from all kinds of religious and cultural backgrounds.
In Mark 5, NOTE Jesus’ trip to Gennesaret. Do you notice how many times the Gospel writers refer to going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee? Whenever they were on the Jewish side, they crossed over to the other side. Why? Jesus performed the same works among the gentile world. He never urged them to change their religious culture, but let them remain right where they grew up. However, they were drawn to him.
When Jesus healed the demoniac, people were astonished at the change. The man wanted to follow along with Jesus, but Jesus said:”Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. (Mark 5)
Not only did Jesus fully heal and accept this non-Jewish, demonized man, he then sent him back to his own culture among the 10 cities of the Decapolis to share with his culture what God had done for him. Jesus didn’t tell him to go change his culture, but to relate his story of personal transformation to his culture. And he told them all what Jesus had done! Why is it we care so much about changing other cultures to be like ours, when Jesus didn’t?