Why Are Christians Ganging Up on Missionary John Chau, Who Paid the Ultimate Price for Sharing the Gospel?
On November 14, American missionary John Allen Chau paid local fisherman to take him to North Sentinel Island, located off the coast of northern India. Ignoring the law prohibiting outsiders from making contact with the Sentinelese, Chau wanted to share the gospel with the isolated tribe. Three days later, his death was reported by fishermen who saw the Sentinelese bury his body on the beach. Many in the press as well as many people on social media have blasted Chau for what they believe was an act of selfish stupidity. Even some Christians are criticizing Chau. Others, though, are hailing the young missionary as a martyr for the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When I first heard about John Chau, I thought of two men who were arrested a long time ago for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. After the authorities punished them, the two were warned to never preach the gospel again. However, they ignored the authorities and continued preaching. Eventually, one of them was killed for preaching the gospel and the other was tortured and then exiled.
Based on the way some professing Christians view John Chau, I think it's safe to assume that they would also view the efforts of those two men as foolhardy and a pointless sacrifice that embarrasses "normal" Christians. I mean, the two obviously didn't understand that with the Great Commission Jesus never intended for us to ignore laws and proselytize where we're not wanted.
Except, as many have probably guessed, the two mentioned above are named Peter and John. As in, two of Jesus' disciples who, along with James, formed Jesus' inner circle of three disciples. I daresay that professing Christians who are criticizing Chau don't criticize Peter and John.
It's not surprising that the mainstream media and non-Christians criticize Chau, but the criticism and even vitriol directed at Chau by professing Christians baffles and saddens me.
Look, I'm not saying that I would encourage people to do what John Chau did, because it's not my place to encourage someone to offer him or herself up for martyrdom. But, all things being equal, I also don't think that I would discourage fellow Christians from doing it either. Are there better ways and methods to make contact with unreached people groups? Yes, of course. There are always better ways to do, well, anything. And if every Christian waits until he or she has attained a level of expertise as dictated by others before sharing the gospel, the gospel will be preached even less than it already is.
If a fellow Christian confided to me that he was planning a missionary endeavor similar to Chau's, at most, I would be concerned with making sure that the individual was aware of the potential cost. From all accounts, John Chau was aware of that cost. Baptist Press reports that Chau's last note to his family was, "You guys might think I'm crazy in all this but I think it's worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people."