Discussing
Missionaries instead of soldiers?

Jeff Munroe

Melayton
August 29, 2011

I think it comes down to how you define missionaries. Many missionaries do good work, and that is commendable. However, for many missionaries they often come round to some version of the altar call. When I have seen this happen, there's sometimes a good deal of resentment from the one being "helped" - they feel used, like the person was only doing whatever missionary work to get them to accept some creed. <br><br>That caveat said, I *do* think we'll get closer to true peace if we use armed resistance as an absolute last resort. Bombs and guns tend to breed hatred, not love or trust. I just think we need to be careful about how we do the work. Is it truly because we see the person as a fellow child of God in need, or because we see them as a potential Christian?

JCarpenter
August 29, 2011

My WWII-vet dad, who spent three years during the war as a GI in east India, developed a life-long love for India and its people. He befriended and supported missionaries, in particular several who served for decades in medical and evangelical missions in what is now Bangladesh.  His response to the tragic events of 09/11/2011 was initially out of shock and immediate anger (recalling Dec. 7, 1941, I'm sure); his cooler-heads-prevail reaction was "we should 'bomb' Afghanistan with food, medicine, and bales of one-dollar bills."

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
August 29, 2011

Our pastor happened to touch on this Sunday, referencing the fact that Tony Campolo suggested just this sort of approach during the lead-in to the Iraq War: <a href="http://www.clarion-journal.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2006/06/can_we_really_o.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.clarion-journal.com...</a>

Rickd
August 29, 2011

What is this reluctance to share the gospel with unbelievers? As if this somehow makes us deceitful missionaries. Is it because some view all people as automatically children of God? Jesus didn’t. Neither did Paul or John, the apostle of love.<br><br>Jesus words; “Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.” John 8:41 <br><br>John 1:12 “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”<br><br>Romans 9:8  “In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.“<br>

Kjml
August 30, 2011

Missionaries?  YES.  And if missionaries do not seek to heal the soul as well as the body, they are relief workers, not missionaries.  In the eternal scheme of things, we are commanded not to neglect the physical needs of those we serve, but what good does it do to feed or heal temporal bodies if we withhold the "good news" that even greater healing is available through the Savior who died for all of us?

Guest
August 30, 2011

JMHO I think anyone going into a Muslim country as a relief worker, Missionary or Soldier aught to read the Quran and get a good education on the bridges that already exist between our cultures before buying a airplane ticket or packing extra copies of the "good news".<br><br>The Quran already acknowledges the ministry of Jesus and even the virgin birth, the ascension and the belief that he will return for the last judgement. (while admittedly not the exact translation of our bible.) Where Muslim belief disagrees is on the crucifixion and resurrection and the role of Jesus in the Trinity. <br><br>The church could go a long way to fostering peace by making copies of the Quran available to members who want to understand the similar belief's of their Muslim neighbours. <br><br>God promised to make the children of Ishmael a great nation. He has done that. We need to respect that our Sovereign Lord knew what he was doing and still does. It is our same God of Abraham, who saw the split between the brothers Isaac and Ishmael who now sees so many differing "divinely inspired" traditions, opinions, cannons and creeds followed under the "brand" of the Christian Church. <br><br>I think we need to "be as Christ to others" not shove Christ in their faces if we want to make a difference in the world. Find a way to airlift people out of harms way in Darfur before the the killing and worse reaches more innocent people; take education, sanitation equipment, and seed to the starving.  Support Fairtrade production from small communities. One thing the CRC could do for Afghanistan is sponsor the university education of a number of Afgan women over here in North America.<br><br>We need to build more bridges and stop burning them.

Stephen Hale
August 30, 2011

I don't think Melayton was expressing a reluctance to share the gospel, but a distaste for the common bait &amp; switch tactics of evangelists.<br>If you want people to listen to what you have to say, then you need to convince them the same way you do any other time you want people to listen to you. Don't pretend you're giving away medicine for free, or food, then force someone to listen to your presentation. If that's part of the deal, let people know up front, like many soup kitchens in the US do. But to switch things is dishonest, and makes the Gospel the bad side of getting played. This doesn't benefit anyone.<br><br>Preach the gospel, but be honest about it!<br>At least, that's what I think they were trying to say! :-)<br>-Stephen

SiarlysJenkins
August 31, 2011

It depends on what you mean by "unbelievers." Remember, from the Muslim point of view, WE are the unbelievers, who have yet to submit to the will of God. Think for a moment about how Christians have delicately withheld many traditional attitudes toward Jews, since support for Israel became popular in conservative circles. (In 1948, Israel was beloved by socialists and liberals, while conservatives despised or ignored it).<br><br>If we are going to accept Jews as first class citizens, without condecension, we have to respect their Jewishness, not retain a deep back in our mind conviction that, yeah, they are nice neighbors, but they are all going to hell unless we somehow convert them to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. <br><br>I have resolved these inherent contradictions as follows: God had his own reasons from keeping some of the Judeans, Galileans, the Torah schools in Babylon, the various Jewish communities in the Diaspora, faithful to the covenant with Moses. That was God's work, and it is not for us to question it. God also had his purposes for Mohammed and Islam. I feel no obligation to become Jewish, or Muslim, my relation to God is through Christianity, somewhere in the polyglot collection of thinking known collectively as Protestantism. (Don't forget, in formal Roman Catholic parlance this is still called "The Scandal of Protestantism," just as in formal WELS Lutheran teaching, Rome is "The Whore of Babylon," but it doesn't stop them from praising each other's church-run schools while serving an accreditation commissions).<br><br>Justice Antonin Scalia has reconciled his impulse to open up more government favoritism toward religion with the letter of the First Amendment by suggesting that a modest tilt toward monotheism is a constitutional expression of a national culture that is overwhelmingly Christian, Jewish and Moslem. I would suggest that the primary duty of any monotheistic faith is to reach out to those who have no faith at all, and secondarily perhaps to the remaining "pagan" populations of the world, although still with respect for the person being reached out to.<br><br>Yes, Muslims should be free to convert to Christianity, Christians to convert to Islam, either one to become Jews, or Ba'hai. Not all nations practice a wholesome separation of church and state as we do, and that will take time.

Tim Hendrickson
August 31, 2011

The basic premise of this post may seen simple in concept, but it is actually quite confusing in application. In fact, the only way the "send missionaries, not soldiers" plan makes any sense is if you assume some form of government backed missionary effort (otherwise, how could the soldiers really be replaced and the trillion dollars be spent any differently?). This, of course, would be Constitutionally problematic. <br><br>Is the post, then, suggesting that individual acts of peace can trump institutional acts of violence? I'm not sure that can work either.Additionally, I fail to see the implied connection between missionary work and "the hard work of reconciliation." Missionaries and peace workers are not the same thing, but this post seems to conflate the two.

Tim Hendrickson
August 31, 2011

I would read Scalia's argument against J. S. Mill's in On Liberty that the tyranny of the majority is no better than the tyranny of the one. Just because the national culture is "overwhelmingly monotheistic" does not justify any tilt towards such thinking at the expense of those who believe differently.

Jeff Munroe
August 31, 2011

I never imagined the discussion on missionaries or missions this post has generated.  It is interesting, but seems a bit off-point to me.  Nor was the point of the post to suggest policy.  The Muslim woman wasn't seriously suggesting government policy, she was simply asking us to think about compassion instead of violence.  I hoped readers would stop and consider the irony of a Muslim woman asking us to follow a Christian course.  And I hoped readers would be encouraged to choose peace even when their government does not.  It feels impossible to live in the United States and choose to turn the other cheek.  The hard-line, arrogant approach of the US to Iraq and Afghanistan has cost trillions of dollars and thousands of lives and alienated billions of people around the globe.  That all of this was done by leaders who confess Christianity should make Christians everywhere uncomfortable.

SiarlysJenkins
August 31, 2011

You may be right Tim, but the constitutionality of Scalia's reasoning wasn't my point. I am looking at how an evangelical Christian who devoutly believes it is his or her duty to evangelize to all the world, to "share the gospel with unbelievers" can live with the framework of the First Amendment, and can function in a reasonably diplomatic way within the world.<br><br>Its not easy. If you believe that your faith is the One True Faith, and that anyone who doesn't accept it will be doomed for all eternity, you can easily slip into committing all kinds of atrocities "in the best interest" of those you "minister" to. But freedom of religion does not mean keeping what you believe to yourself. Many faiths ARE evangelical.<br><br>The First Amendment does not state that all religions are equally true. It does affirm that the government created by a constitution is incompetent to judge which faith is the One True Faith, if any. That leaves every faith free to blossom as it gains voluntary adherents -- but not be leaning on The State.

Tim Hendrickson
August 31, 2011

The question, still unresolved, is whether individual acts of compassion are adequate to counteract institutionalized violence in the form of foreign policy. It seems to me that we must also make a concerted effort to elect leaders who value peace over aggression. Then again, the history of both America and Christianity is littered with one violent act after another, so I wonder what can be done.

Rickd
August 31, 2011

Jeff you seem to have a very narrow definition of what a Christian is. What percent of World Christians are pacifists? I would expect it is tiny. Is this the only course that can be considered Christian? Jesus is not a pacifist. He certainly wasn’t in the Old Testament (if you believe in His role in the trinity) and He returns to earth in Revelation leading an army, brandishing a sword with a garment soaked in blood. Both Paul and Peter defend the right of the state bear arms. In Jesus discussions with the centurion he admires his faith and never reproves him for leading an army. Turning the other cheek was never intended to be national policy. You may think the action in Afghanistan is arrogant and unnecessary, but our Nobel Peace Prize winning president considers the war in Afghanistan “fundamental to the defense of our people". Then he authorized the bombing of Libya. I can understand saying, I wish we sent more missionaries than soldiers. But that is like saying, I wish everyone was nice. I am not sure why you think Christians everywhere should be uncomfortable with our leaders who profess to be Christians.

Phil Ebersole
September 1, 2011

One of primary points, I hear, is a prompt to consider the primacy of love, compassion and mercy, rather than violence. Thanks for this invitation. I also hear calling attention to Jesus, whom Christians declare to be God-in-the-flesh, central, supreme, fufillment, revealing God (the nature of God, how we are to live--- "Come, follow me."), etc.<br> <br>It is an interesting dynamic when Christians point to the centrality, supremecy and Lordship of Jesus, and then begin to move away from Jesus to refocus on Pauline texts, the Old Testament, etc.<br> <br>One other note: this does not diminish the complexity of our world and tough questions, but the central question cannot be for followers of Jesus, "What works?" "What is the practical 'solution' to violence?" Jesus never posed that question. In fact, it didn't "work" in his life- it ended in early death (failure according to pragmatic models), and yet his death- this love emboddied on the cross was THE profound victory over all evil, violence and death. (It "worked.")<br> <br>So, I believe the question is more, for followers of Jesus: what did Jesus say?... and how did Jesus live? This is messy, raises hard questions and may involve loss/suffering/death. This is not a mushy, bleeding-heart do-goodism; it is looking at Jesus and then endeavoring to live with compassion, acts of mercy, empowering the broken and poor, loving our enemies, exuding love in helping others, etc.--- all the things Jesus said and did: Jesus, God Incarnate.<br> <br>Thanks, Jeff.

Rickd
September 1, 2011

If Jesus were only a man or an inspired prophet, I could see your point Phil. But orthodox Christians believe Jesus and the Father are one and when God spoke in the Old Testament, it was always in the we voice of the Trinity. When God called for the destruction of the Canaanites, Jesus wasn’t sitting that decision out, sulking because He was a pacifist and disagreed with the Father. Orthodox Christians also believe Paul and Jesus were in complete agreement and that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity was speaking through Paul. As Paul says, “Some of you are saying, “I am a follower of Paul.” Others are saying, “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Peter,” or “I follow only Christ. ”Has Christ been divided into factions?” 1 Corinthians 1:12. <br><br>How peace loving was Jesus when he braided the leather straps used to tie birds into a formidable weapon, a whip, which he attacked the moneychangers with as He kicked over all their tables smashing the furniture, scattering their money and leaving them cowering in fear? You also say that the peace approach didn’t work to save Jesus life from violence. This is a misunderstanding. Jesus was not looking for an escape from violence. He came to give His life on the cross to pay the price for our sins. He says that if He wanted to escape death, He could have easily called deadly warring angels. “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” <br><br>You may be reading the Gospels selectively. I have never stood before a crowd of people and declared, “You are of your father, the Devil”. That’s a good way to incite a riot, some might even call it hate speech. We have to read the Gospels in total, in context, in all their complexity. As I say, Jesus was not, is not, a pacifist. He brings peace through strength and defends the weak.

Ortavia
September 3, 2011

I am new to your site and I loved this post.  Although, the concept of sending missionaries instead of troops seems impractical to most, the point is the effects of its implementation.  Jesus knows the eternal effects that love has and to believe it is anything short of pure is absurd.  Regardless of our opinions on why it's not possible in our society does not make it false.  Maybe if enough people embraced this virtue, we'd start to see a change and relations between countries and people wouldn't be so hostile. It's one thing to talk about it, but only putting it to action can prove the results.

Thuissen
September 4, 2011

I am amazed by the discussion generated by Jeff's sharing of an encounter on an airplane between two thoughtful people from two different religions, perspectives and cultures.  To think that this has raised discussion or even debate of just war theory, the rulings of Justice Scalia, or what it means to be missional verses being a missionary.  I have no question to ask of the author, the piece seems pretty straight forward.  I don't need to read it backwards looking for some hidden meaning.  But I do wonder about some who have commented about it.  Perhaps some need to get away from their computers and spend more time either being missional or aid workers - apparently there is a difference.  And oh yeah, heaven help us if we have a conversation with a stranger and not bring up Christ's redemptive work of the cross.

Rickd
September 5, 2011

You may be amazed because you laboring under the author’s same presuppositions. What does it mean when the author closes his meditation with “Who ever imagined a Muslim woman might suggest we follow the Christian way?” So, what is that Christian way? That seems pretty fundamental to this meditation. Is it sending missionaries instead of soldiers? Is military action always ruled out by God? When a treaty ally is being invaded by another country should we offer tenderness instead of defense or “coercion”? Was the elimination of Sadaam Husein and Osama Bin Laden unjustifiable, unbiblical “violent retribution”? And what is the fundamental mission of a missionary? Is this muslim woman really asking that millions of American Christians carrying Bibles attempt to convert her countrymen from Islam to Christianity? Or is she asking for free schools and clean water provided by aid workers? You may have no question to ask the author because you consider the thesis manifestly true...Christianity always equals radical, uncompromising pacifism and missionaries are simply altruistic aid workers. When an author submits an article on Think Christian, he or she invites thinking Christians to examine the foundations and presuppositions of that thesis. Otherwise, an article like this runs the risk of being a simplistic bumper sticker like “Make love, not war”. This careful examination is the fun of Think Christian and there is certainly no malice intended by any of the responders that I could perceive.

Thuissen
September 9, 2011

I'm not really laboring at all.  When I read "Who ever imagined a Muslim woman might suggest we follow the Christian way?" I interpret those words to mean the teachings of Christ found in the gospels.  The irony is that it was a Muslim woman who said this, not a Christian.  Didn't you find any irony in that?  What I read in this piece, and what I labor over daily, is Christ's command to love my neighbor.  Ten years ago this Sunday evening, I went to a community prayer service.  I was comforted by many of the prayers, yet alarmed by others.  In the back of my mind I knew that many more innocent people were going to be killed than on that horrible day 10 years ago as the result of our country's response.  Was our response justified?  What has been the result, what have been the outcomes of our response?  How would the result or outcomes be different if we "followed the Christian way?"  These are questions worth considering.  I am amazed by the direction the discussion took.  There may be no malice intended by those responding to this piece, yet to read into the piece so much and make judgements (yes, I believe judgements based on words that I read and the way I interpret them) about it goes beyond the point Jeff was trying to make.  I will not try to argue just war theory or any of points you raise.  That will only get me and the rest a very lengthy response that may be the "fun" part of Think Christian, but not (at this point) helpful or beneficial.  The Christian way indeed.

Rickd
September 9, 2011

What is the Christian way? There is an assumption that we all share the same view. Let’s observe Jesus in the Old Testament. Lets observe Jesus in the New Testament. Let’s observe Jesus in the future in Revelation. Let’s read the Bible in its totality. Then let’s draw some conclusions. Let's not base our beliefs on one or two scriptures taken out of context. Were the missionaries this Muslim woman talking about, converting people from Islam to Christianity? Does she want hundreds of thousands of Christians with Bibles to convert her Islamic country from the darkness of Islam to the light of the Gospel? To get rid of their copies of the Koran? Missionaries are punished by death for converting muslims in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Northern Nigeria and many other Islamic societies. Real missionaries often die for their promotion of the faith as Jim Elliot in Equador, preaching to the Acua Indians or St. Thomas in India, or Graham Staines and his two sons Philip and Timothy killed by Hindus in India last year.

Broeder10
September 11, 2011

Ah, an enlightened Moslem woman wishing for missionaries rather than soldiers. Perhaps she can vote for that in her country of origin? Oh wait, she can't vote and she had better not take off the hajib. And oh yeah, when a Moslem converts to Christianity he or she can be killed. See VOM. Probably be nice to have a few soldiers around to prevent that. Turn the other cheek is personal ethic, not national policy, unless you like Moslem fanatics crashing into skyscrapers.<br><br><br><br><br>

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