Witch Doctors and Missionaries

It’s always struck me strange that a missionary who befriends the local witch doctor is praised from making relational inroads into the darkest parts of his mission field. He’s a hero. We put a picture of him and the witch doctor on our refrigerator as a reminder to pray for him.

But if an American pastor befriends the local Imam, a Mormon bishop, a politician from the wrong side of the aisle, or a prominent leader in the gay rights or pro-choice movement, he’ll be assailed for fraternizing with the enemy. His picture will be posted on blogs, and it won’t be as a reminder to pray for him. 

If we aren’t careful, we can make the same mistake Jonah did. He not only hated the sin of the Ninevites; he hated the Ninevites. that’s why he took off in the opposite direction when God told him to go to Nineveh to proclaim God’s impending judgment. He feared that they would repent and God would spare them.

Sure enough, that’s what happened. And when they repented and God relented his judgment, Jonah was one ticked-off prophet (Jonah 3:1-4:11).

When our passion for God overrides our compassion for lost people, something has gone terribly wrong. When we come to the point where we’d rather see judgment than salvation, we are no longer aligned with the heart of God. We’ve become more like Jonah than Daniel (p 152).

Thriving in BabylonThat gem is how Larry Osborne ends one of his chapters on humility in his insightful book Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture.

Without reading much more than the above quotation, it is easy to see that the author does not advocate for Christians to hunker down and hide from the culture of the world around them in an attempt to be Christ-centered.  What is hinted at in the final sentence (and expounded in great length earlier in the book) is that the author is not advocating being assimilated into the fallen culture that surrounds.

Instead, we are to live as Daniel – with hope, humility, and wisdom – in the midst of a culture that is unabashedly godless (and Larry Osborne does a great service in letting us know that we have it easy compared to Daniel in captivity in Babylon).

Two of my favorite chapters about living as Daniel were about the hope killers of catastrophizing, myopia, and amnesia.  We are called back to the power of the gospel and that our hope is in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, not ourselves nor our country’s culture.

As John Myer (bareknuckle.org) once said in a sermon, when we feel discouraged or timid about our culture’s response to the gospel, remember that the ending of Revelation doesn’t change based upon our feelings or the world in which we live – Jesus is still the Hero and he still wins.

If you find yourself wondering what to do and how to approach living in a country that is looking more and more like Babylon, grab Thriving in Babylon.


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