Saturday, April 20, 2019

Til on that Cross as Jesus Died, the Wrath of God was Satisfied

This month, in the spirit of Good Friday and Easter, I'd like to talk about a dear friend of mine who has passed away. I'll return to giving y'all an update on the ministry next month. It's taken me some time to compile my thoughts. And I wanted to come to his defense right after it happened, but I couldn't come up with the words to do so then. I hope that the few words and thoughts I have now can be sufficient. A few months ago, my friend was plastered all over the news and there was a whole national conversation about him. His name was John Chau. If you haven't read his story, here is one of the many articles about him. I grew up with John in Washington throughout middle and high school. We went to youth group together. We played airsoft one time. We even went to a Major League Soccer game together in college. When I first heard the news, it was surreal. I didn't and still don't really understand death. John and I had not talked to each other in quite a few years, and it wouldn't have surprised me if we never would again. But now, there is not even a sliver of a chance that that will happen in this life. In the days following the news, old friends and childhood acquaintances reached out and talked to each other and consoled one another in our memory of John. And then the media backlash began. People accusing John of stupidity, of recklessness, of "white savior" mentality. Despite it all being relatively refuted in the weeks to come, people wouldn't change their minds because we no longer form opinions based on objectivity and facts, we form opinions and then find "facts" to uphold our own subjectivity. That's postmodernism, isn't it? But we learned that John had planned and prepared for his mission, that he had quarantined himself to best prevent transmitting illness, and that John is half-white so we can't feel entirely justified in scapegoating his ethnicity. But there were disgusting attacks on his character, evil remarks, and debased joking about the way that he died. 

"You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:22)

And it wasn't just non-Christians. Christians were participating in it too, making apologies for uncultured, unenlightened "extremists". But what was John extreme about? He wanted to preach the gospel to one of the last unreached people groups in the world. And what? That makes us Christians uncomfortable? When did we stop believing that Jesus was the only way? When did we stop believing that we have truth that the rest of the world needs? When did we stop believing that we should be taking risks, should be uncomfortable, and should expect to be hated and persecuted for the the good news of Christ? We've bought into postmodernism. "Truth is relative. You can have your truth and I'll have mine. I won't infringe on yours if you won't infringe on mine." Lies. We have the truth. Not because we're better, not because we're good, but because of God's grace alone. Whether we are a postmodern American with 21st-century technology or an isolated tribe on a small island, without Jesus we don't have truth, we don't have life. 

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6)

I believe so much of this backlash, so much of our discomfort is because we've lost sight of the gospel. The gospel is not a put-together Sunday service, the gospel is not good, emotional music, the gospel is not clean. The gospel is a poor, dirty teacher walking the countrysides calling people to repent and believe the good news: that God is on their side if they would only welcome him, the gospel is blood and flesh dripping and ripped apart while God himself suffocates on a tree, and the gospel is an empty tomb without fanfare, when God said that death is not final and that he can show us a way through it, a way to life to the full, a life everlasting. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

John died breaking the law. John seems to have died in disgrace. But John died doing what is right. I have faith that I'll see him again in the resurrection. 

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20)