Called Not to be Colonists, but Revolutionaries

Called Not to be Colonists

Like most first-term missionaries, we are thinking through many issues that are suddenly before us (usually “out-loud” on our blog). One such issue is the question of “tolerance” on the mission field. This question is intimately tied to the history of our people group. People in this region had been living in the jungles until the French and German colonists entered the area. It has been said that the Germans violently forced the people to set up new villages along a main road so that they could control them more easily. A few of our friends have told us stories about the French savagely beating nationals who dared to resist their authority. They were made to submit to the whites and unfortunately this dark history is not too far in the past.

And then a generation or two later, we show up. We arrive not with the agenda to conform our friends and neighbors to our ways, but instead we are here hoping to learn theirs. Our prayer is to become their slaves in order to give them the hope of the Gospel in a way that is culturally understandable. Thus, because we want to communicate acceptance of this culture, a mantra in our home is that things here are not “good or bad, but just different.”
But Revolutionaries
But then we have our kids watch DVDs about Amy Carmichael whose ministry rescuing little girls from temple prostitution was integral in making this practice illegal in India. Or of William Carey who openly battled for decades against the practice of burning widows in India. His perseverance eventually led to the government banning this travesty. Their lives changed the laws of foreign  nations. I have to ask myself: What if they had kept their heads down focusing solely on “missionary work”? Would it still be legal in India to drop off one’s daughter at the temple to be a sex slave? Or would widows still be burned to death at their husband’s funerals instead of being comforted?
In reflecting upon their open resistance to evil practices in the cultures they worked in, I wonder if perhaps we as missionaries could be responding “It’s not good, not bad just different” just a little too quickly. I wonder if there is a time to say, “God says this is evil and it needs to be stopped.” 
What Does the Bible Say? The Bible calls us first to discernment and then to action.
The Bible says that those who are mature are not those who remain unmoved by the evils in their culture, but instead those who are constantly distinguishing between good and evil (Heb 5:14). The mature are those who are able to say, “That is wrong and let me biblically explain why.” These people are also “wise as to what is good” (Rom 16:19). They know what is wholesome and pleasing to the Lord and they know what moves him to anger. The best missionaries and the best Christians are not those who are just “nice” while remaining silent as widows are burned or children are aborted. Instead they are those who study the Scriptures and can patiently and unwaveringly give biblical reasons as to why a particular practice is wrong. And this ability to discern does not remain intellectual but instead moves them to…
William Carey did not just make a biblical case that widow burning was wrong in his diary. No, his goal was to stop the practice. Why? Because his ability to discern sank down into his emotions to the point where he could follow the call of the Bible “O you who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10). His emotions would not let him sit back and say, “Oh well, sinners sin!” Instead his hatred of evil led him to intervene.
Not only does the Bible call us to be able to discern good from evil, to emotionally respond to the good and evil that we see, but also to expose it. Paul says, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Eph 5 11). I heard one sermon where the pastor said that the reaction of a Christian towards evil is to point a big spotlight at it. Is this attitude found in missions methodology books today?
To conclude, I think it is great that we as non-colonizing, non-oppressing Western missionaries come to the field with a ready-to-learn-and-serve attitude, quick to accept aspects of the culture that we find uncomfortable. And yet, I do not believe God wants us to drift towards an overall passivity to the evils around us. We should instead be constantly asking ourselves, “Does this aspect of the culture please God? Why or why not?” And consistently praying, “Lord, help us to love what you love and hate what you hate within myself, my home culture and the culture I am living in currently.” And finally, after discerning good from evil, being moved to love it or hate it, we are to boldly step out in faith to expose the works of darkness that are around us.
And for our friends at home, it seems like the process of discerning good from evil within our own culture is even more difficult. We tend to be blind to what has been the “normal” that we have grown up with. Thus, the above prayers are very applicable to all of us: “Lord, help me to discern what aspects of my culture please you and which aspects do not. Lord, help me to love what you love and hate what you hate about my culture.” Finally, “Lord help me to lovingly and patiently expose the evil that is so readily accepted her.” And of course, “Lord use me to change this nation.”
And I imagine that the Lord will be pleased to answer these prayers. I imagine he will continue to use his children to be salt and light in nations all throughout the world.
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets-who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Hebrews 11:32-34   

Author: Stacey Hare

Stacey is a servant of Jesus Christ as well as a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator among the Kwakum people of Cameroon.