Missions Week is over. Advent is almost upon us. A week of prayer in January is just beyond tomorrow. Life leaps into the future like a frightened gazelle. “Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow.”
This is good for us to feel. Lesslie Newbingen recently said that the greatest problem in missions is the stumbling block of the pagan West. How can Americans take a message to a pagan people whose family structure is more solid and “biblical” than our own? What shall we say to them about alcoholism and infanticide and divorce and suicide and fraud and lavish waste?
I know only one answer. Remember that we are like a passing shadow. America is not our home. We are aliens and exiles here. Our regent is not Reagan but Christ alone. We do not pledge allegiance to any commonwealth but the kingdom of God.
We will need the spirit of Adoniram Judson and his wife Nancy and her father. In 1810 Adoniram wrote to Nancy’s father to ask permission to marry her and take her to India. It’s the proposal of an avowed alien:
I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in a world of glory, with the crown of righteousness, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
The father agreed. They were married. And she died fourteen years later in Burma.
When we are that much in love with God’s “world of glory” and that free from the claims of the motherland, then we may be able to carry the gospel from pagan America to pagan frontiers with some credibility. So let us think how brief our life is. And let us get the mind of an alien. If we cherish our citizenship in heaven above all earthly allegiances, we may be able to invite non-Americans to join us there.
A passing shadow in an alien land,