From Minnesota to Kachinland

Okay. So I started out with the intent of discussing (complaining) about a well-known quote by John Piper. It goes like this:

Mission Exists Because Worship Doesn’t

The statement has a certain appeal to it from a position of pietism. However, it feels to me as if it does not really stand up to scrutiny. I don’t really want to go into this too far since my post is about to go off in a very random direction. However, when one looks in the Bible at ideal relationships between God and Man, one commonly does not find settings that seem all that worshipful. Genesis 1 -3 show the ideal as more of God and Man sharing paradise together in the cool of the morning. Enoch (although the language is wildly open to interpretation) seems to have a relationship that is more intimate with God than is suggestive by the term “worship.” Jesus seemed to promote intimate friendship over worship with His disciples. Jesus certainly is worthy of worship (as the P&W song goes) but it does not seem as if He craves it particularly. While some scenes in Heaven in Revelation fit the classic imagery of worship, others point more to something more akin to Genesis 1-3. Of course, the term ‘worship’ is a bit loaded. We often picture a very physical activity (prostrating, bowing, raising hands, folding hands, jumping, whatever), but worship is far more the activity of the heart than of activity. However, saying that mission exists because worship doesn’t… well… I guess it may in a sense be true… but it gives an image that seems to be outside what the Bible gives when calling for missions.

Yeah… I better stop going in that direction. I said that it veered off. Anyway, I am not really a student of John Piper. I haven’t really read much of anything that he has written, so I did not want to be taking this quote of his out of context… so I web-browsed, and found an article titled, “Missions Exists Because Worship Doesn’t.” You can click on the name to read the article.

What amazed me was a paragraph towards the beginning:

In 1890 (122 years ago) Bethlehem (a 29-year-old Swedish Baptist Church) sent Mini and Ola Hanson from our own membership to an unreached people group in Burma called the Kachin. They were known as vengeful, cruel, and treacherous. The King of Burma declared to Hanson when he got there, “So you are to teach the Kachins! Do you see my dogs over there? I tell you, it will be easier to convert and teach these dogs. You are wasting your life.”

-John Piper, at the link above

The section about the Hansons is longer. I would recommend reading it in the article I mentioned above. I have had MANY students in seminary who are Kachin. They look on Mini and Ola Hanson with such respect, even decades after their passing. They learned the Kachin Language. (Technically, they learned Jinpo, the largest language in the Kachin language group.) They developed an alphabet, and translated the Bible into Kachin (Jinpo). If I remember right, talking to my students, that Bible is still used.

The durability of their faith in (let’s just cautiously say) politically challenging times, is impressive and atestimony to the dedication of the Hansons. But dedication is not really enough. A lot of missionaries are dedicated.

Based on my conversations with Kachin, I think they truly felt the love of the Hansons for them… and in that love, believe that they saw the Love of Christ for them. Truthfully, in may ways, the traditional religion of the Kachin was not so greatly differently from Christianity. They believed in one god— the god of the heavens. They believed that they were separated from god by sin, and saw the need for sacrifice to make peace with god. What they needed was to know that the God of the Heavens loved them and sent Jesus for them… taking away the burden of sacrifice.

The Kachin responded to the love of God by loving Him back, based on what they saw through the love demonstrated by the Hansons.

I guess that brings things full circle to a modified quote:

Missions Exists because Love Doesn’t

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