Among the many headlines in recent days was the news of the death of John Allen Chau, a young American missionary who was killed by the very people he was seeking to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The people Mr. Chau sought to contact are an isolated tribe who live on the island of North Sentinel about 500 miles to the east of India. They are known to be an unwelcoming people who shower would-be visitors with arrows, which is what happened to Mr. Chau.
In the aftermath of Mr. Chau’s death, a variety of questions and opinions have been expressed. Some people wonder why Mr. Chau would seemingly throw his life away when he had so much life ahead of him at 26 years of age. It seemed like a waste to them. Others are of the opinion that the people on North Sentinel should have been left alone since that is what they seem to want anyway. Still, others question the method Mr. Chau used to try to reach out to these people.
While there are good reasons to question the wisdom of Mr. Chau’s method of contact (i.e. going alone in the middle of the night to the island), Mr. Chau left clear evidence of his thoughts concerning what he was doing and why he was doing it. In a letter to his parents on Nov. 16, he wrote, “You guys might think I’m crazy in all this, but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people.”
For Mr. Chau, what he was seeking to do was not a waste, but “worth it” because he was seeking to declare Jesus and Jesus’ message to people who have not heard it before.
And what is so important about this message? As the Apostle Peter said to those who sought to silence him as he proclaimed the message of Jesus Christ, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
In other words, it is a message of warning and a message of the only hope for escape. It is a message of warning about the coming judgment and wrath of God against a rebellious and sinful world. Yet at the same time, it is a message of hope, because it proclaims the only way to be spared from that wrathful and just judgment of God is by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ through faith in Him. This was the message the Mr. Chau sought to give to the people of North Sentinel.
And what motivated Mr. Chau to go at such risk and cost? In his diary, Mr. Chau recorded that he wanted to communicate to the people on the island “I love you and Jesus loves you.” He was motivated by love to go and proclaim to them the message of reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ.
This was the same motivation of the Apostle Paul. As he wrote to the Corinthians, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised ... All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 18-20).
Instead of living for himself and his own comfort, Mr. Chau was concerned for others and sought to love his neighbors – even if they were halfway around the world. Compelled by his own experience of the love of Christ reconciling him to God, he sought to proclaim this same message of reconciliation to others.
What compels you? Are you concerned for others? Are you concerned for your own soul? As the Apostle Peter warned, “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment” (2 Peter 3:7). Before that day comes, I implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.