Thursday, March 26, 2009

a man of peace (Luke 10)

Round one went well. The Twelve went out, worked miracles, and preached God's Kingdom. So Luke reports another cycle of itinerant evangelism, this time with 70 messengers. This number is, in Biblical terms, another word picture. Genesis 11 lists 70 distinct nations that developed after the dispersion at the Tower of Babel. SO our Lord is telling us, by this second round, that His message was intended for Israel first, and then for the whole world.

Missionary is a foul word in many societies. An agent of an alien ideology is at the door, determined to destroy our families and our culture. During the 19th century, the American obsession with polygamy led to the warning cry heard in many African villages: "The destroyers of families have come." Benjamin Fortna's incredible book The Imperial Classroom discusses how a hard-pressed Ottoman Empire somehow found the will, and the resources, to build 10,000 modern schools almost overnight. The rulers were threatened by restive people groups around the edges, unhappy minorities within, commercial competition from the new global environment, and the missionary schools. These institutions, lavishly funded from abroad, transparently sought to undermine the Islamic faith and culture of the people.

On the one hand, Christians view God's Kingdom as a new reality, a new culture, supernaturally lowered from the heavens. Yet so often the "new culture" we have brought to "the benighted heathen" has been western culture that confuses our idiomatic (and sometimes idiotic) preferences with God's eternal standards. Yes, American missionaries helped the Hawaiian people to become literate, and mostly Christian, within a few decades. They also insisted that the tropical ladies wear "mother hubbards," neck-to-ankle long-sleeved dresses.

Today's "Christian exemplars," like Baptist singer Brittany Spears, go to strip joints to refine their stage gyrations.

Bruce Olsen refused to buy into the "witch doctor vs. Enlightened Missionary" paradigm. The traditional healers, he saw, were "the backbone of tribal morality." During a pinkeye epidemic in his adopted tribe, he noted how the shaman worked herself to exhaustion seeking to help her people, calling out to heaven for healing. Olsen infected himself, then asked the witch doctor to chant for his healing -- and anoint his eye with tetracycline. He honored her position in the tribe, enhanced her effectiveness, and eventually saw the entire tribe embrace the gospel in its own way.

Perhaps, this chapter suggests the best way to persuade people to give thought to the Creator's "graphic user interface" with the created order, İsa. The One through whom we see the Almighty's character and personality, and the One in whose name we lay hold on the eternal order. When you want to bring the good news of salvation to a new community, find a "man of peace."
Luk 10:5 Hangi eve girerseniz, önce, 'Bu eve esenlik olsun!' deyin.
Luk 10:6 Orada esenliksever biri varsa, dilediğiniz esenlik onun üzerinde kalacak; yoksa, size dönecektir.
Luk 10:7 Girdiğiniz evde kalın, size ne verirlerse onu yiyip için. Çünkü işçi ücretini hak eder. Evden eve taşınmayın.
And, a few words:
  • Hangi eve girerseniz, önce, -- Whichever house you go into, first,
  • 'Bu eve esenlik olsun!' deyin -- 'This house peace be upon!' say.
Every community has influential people already in place. People who are known for their nobility and hospitality. Win their trust, and the whole village will listen. Ignore them, and the people will ignore you (except for a handful of malcontents, rejects, and misfits).

Bruce Olsen's tribe discarded the seven-day week as irrelevant to their Amazonian climate. Frankly, I see no reason why other cultures would need to embrace such things as Christmas and Easter, holidays that we confiscated from pre-existing pagan orders. Someday, I would love to observe Ramazan with people who share my delight in İsa.

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