Monday, June 22, 2009

438 out of 6912 - lots to be done

Last week I was at a missions conference in Dallas Texas with an organization called Pioneer Bible Translators. They're sorta like Wycliffe, translating the Bible into never-before-heard-of languages all over the world, but they're a smaller and more manoeverable outfit. They're also committed to church planting as well.

Bible translation is a crazy task. I didn't realize all the issues that are involved in communicating truths from the biblical context to our today. In the west, or any Christian-influenced country, we have the benefit of centuries of religious jargon in our English language. We know the meaning of "faith" or "Amen." But what about a pre-literate nomadic people living somewhere in the sub-Sahara desert? There are languages who don't even have the verb to be, other languages don't use any abstract nouns at all. What a task it is to translate profound Biblical truths like justification by faith, or predestination.

But it can be done, and it must be done. God has a plan to gather people from every language, tribe and culture around his throne to worship him in their own native language. There are currently 6912 known languages in the world, but only 438 of those languages have a completed Bible. Many of these languages have never been learned about outsiders before. How then, as Paul says, are they to believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without a preacher?

They say that less than 5% of all missionaries are serving among a people group who generally have never heard the gospel. They go to places that already have an established church, published Bibles and theological schools. All the while, there are thousands of people groups yet to have of the name "Jesus" translated into their dialect.

I've committed myself to going as a missionary, where I will barely be scratching the surface of the task that needs to be done. Who's coming with me?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Atonement and the Love

Ephesians 5
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.

I've recently been pondering more and more about Christ's work on the cross, especially the question: For whom did Christ die? Those of us with any appreciation for the cross will agree that Jesus' crucifixion was big news, it made a big deal - all the difference in the world. My question has always been, Who reaped the benefits of Jesus' work? We naturally assume, The whole world, of course! Sinner, saint, the Pope in Rome, the Pygmy in Africa. Jesus died for everyone all the same.

But the above passage suggests differently. The kind of love that a husband shows his wife is not the same as kind he shows to his secretary, the door-to-door salesman, or the shoeshine boy. I know it's the 21st century and anything goes these days, but hey. Paul seems to be saying that it was love that propelled Jesus to lay down his life to sanctify his bride into a spotless splendour. But this wasn't any kind of two-bit love for just anyone, it was a husbandly love, the kind that sacrifices his own life for the sake of his wife, his own flesh. If a husband shows the same amount of affection for the stranger at the grocery check-out as for his wife, we call him a Playboy, a cheat, a fool. He doesn't deserve to be married.

Special deeds are motivated by a special love, directed to special people.

This is precisely in line with what we see in God's affection towards Israel in the Old Testament: special treatment for special people as a result of a special love. I'm not saying that God doesn't love those who are not his people. Psalm 145:9 says, "The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made." But, it seems clear that some enemies and non-Israelites weren't shown the same type of "love."

How does this fare with our assumptions about a general love of God for all humanity, or a general atonement made for all humanity? Of course, on the surface, it does sound better, more polite, more universal and makes everyone feel equally cuddled. But it just seems that the embrace of God's arms are more tightly wrapped around those he loves more.