I’m reading a biography of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India and a few other places.
At a young age she was challenged at a missionary convention regarding the need to take the gospel to those who had not heard.
Elisabeth Elliot, who wrote this particular biography, put it this way:
Before the convention [Amy] had been pondering the agonizing question of the fate of those who had never heard of Jesus Christ. It was as though she heard “the cry of the heathen,” and could not rest because she could not gladly stay at home and do nothing about them. (A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot, p 52)
Still, she didn’t expect that she herself would leave home to go and become the ambassador for her Lord and Savior. But she prayed.
Four years later, when God called her to serve in foreign lands, He made His will very clear to her: “It was that snowy Wednesday evening [of January 13, 1892] that the categorical imperative came, not just once but again and again: Go ye.”
Regardless, the decision was not easy. She lived in a time without air travel, internet, or even international phone service. Going to foreign places meant a long term interruption to her familial relationships. She had commitments at home.
As she struggled with what she was to do she wrote of “‘those dying in the dark, 50,000 of them every day,’ of her own longing to tell them of Jesus, and her misgivings.” (p 54)
Convinced by counsel from her mother and others, who reminded her that she was God’s and that if God asked for her, how can she but go, Amy made her decision.
She believed she was responding to God’s direct call on her life. She was to go because thousands of people were living and dying without hearing the gospel. They were lost, in need of a Savior. And she had what they needed.
I can’t help but compare what weighed on Amy with what seems to weigh on Christians today. Honestly, I don’t hear about the passion for the souls of those living in places without Christ. I hear about poverty and disease and oppression, but not as much about people dying without Christ.
So I wonder if Christians today are as concerned for the lost as we are for the needy.
We seem to believe that our mission is to help people become more comfortable, and then, when they are no longer hungry or homeless or jobless or oppressed, they’ll give thought to their spiritual condition.
But I suspect that’s not true. The early Christians had no comfort or ease to offer those they evangelized. They preached Christ and Him crucified. The preached the fellowship of His sufferings. They preached dying to self and taking up their crosses. They told those who believed to be imitators of them as they were of Christ, and then they became martyrs.
The conventional wisdom today is that people who are hungry or homeless or living in danger are not open spiritually. Their focus is on their spiritual needs. Maybe that’s so. I’m no psychologist, I’ve done no studies on the subject. I do know that people in other ages and generations made a difference spiritually because they preached Christ.
Do we need a different approach today? We’re living in a different time, witnessing to people of the 21st century. Don’t we need a 21st century strategy?
Perhaps. But I can’t help but think of Romans 10:14
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
God clearly cares for the needy. He chastised Israel for their treatment of orphans, widows, and strangers, and James specifies that “pure and undefiled religion” includes visiting “orphans and widows in their distress.”
But what’s the point? Our religion is to demonstrate what we believe. It isn’t to replace the commission we’ve been given to make disciples or to go into all the world to preach the gospel.
Amy Charmichael heard God’s call to “Go ye” because her heart was sensitive to the lost. May we the Church be just as heart broken over the spiritual condition of those without Christ. Yes, we can still care about their needs, but may we never be more concerned with meeting physical needs than with providing Living Water and Everlasting Bread.