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Christmas, John Allen Chau, and the Apostle’s Advice

Cody Irwin

A few years prior to his unexpected death, John Allen Chau, an All Nations missionary, devoted his time, resources, and heart to carrying the joys of Jesus Christ to the unreached people, the Sentinelese.

Inhabiting a small island just off the main Andaman archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, the Sentinelese people remain isolated from the modern world around them. For thousands of years, this people group has fiercely and violently protected their little island, which has made any attempts to contact them dangerous and lethal. On top of that, the island cannot be accessed lawfully under the authority of the Indian government.

They are intentionally kept in their uninterrupted pre-Neolithic state for various reasons (ex: cultural anthropological reasons, national pride, etc.). But, one of the main reasons for prohibiting anyone from entering the island is for the Sentinelese’s own protection. Our modern pathogens could potentially destroy their unimmune bodies just with contact.

All that to say, the Sentinelese are the quintessential unreached people group.

It is no wonder why John was so eager to tell them about Jesus. Arguably not from pride but with a sincere heart for the unreached peoples of the world, John Allen Chau stepped up to the plate to engage this neglected community with the gospel.

According to his friends, family, and colleagues, John always showed a great zeal to share Christ with others. In his last journal entry before his martyrdom, he wrote, “You guys might think I’m crazy in all of this, but I think it’s worthwhile to declare Jesus to these people.” Amen!

In an interview with Christianity today, All Nations International Executive Leader Mary Ho said, “Since he was about 18 years old, John took a mission trip and on that mission trip he really felt a call to be a missionary. Around that time, he started researching all the different people groups and he came across the North Sentinelese people. Chau really felt that his life’s call was to take the love and goodness of Jesus Christ to the North Sentinelese. And since then, every decision he has made has been to prepare himself for his life’s call.”

In recent weeks, there has been a lot of controversy—in both secular and Church circles—over John Allen Chau’s pursuit of these people and his subsequent death. Certainly, there is a lot of could-have-should-have wisdom out there (even from secular voices). And, there is no doubt that reaching the Sentinelese effectively will be a complex, challenging, and courageous endeavor regardless. But, whether or not John’s actions were ideal, his ambition is one the Bible commends. And, equally important, his ambition is one the Church should support.

How does 3 John factor in?

In the Apostle John’s third letter, he writes to a faithful man named Gaius. In the letter, John encourages Gaius to send and support a special kind of group. If he does, it will only be to his benefit.

The group John has in mind are workers of truth (preachers of the gospel) who are passing through Gaius’ town. Even though they are strangers, Gaius welcomes them in and cares for them. John encourages Gaius to send and support these kinds of brothers because they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. What does John mean?

They have gone out

These preachers of the gospel have left their homes. They have accepted the call to take the gospel to the needy world outside of where they are. Making disciples, baptizing believers, and teaching what Christ commanded, these workers of truth have gone out to proclaim Christ among the peoples of the world.

For the sake of the name

The motivation that grounds their going out is none other than spreading, representing, and glorifying the name of Jesus Christ. The fame and honor of Jesus is their first thought in the morning. Declaring the supremacy of Christ over all things pushes them out the door. Because Jesus is that amazing and marvelous, they cannot help but share him with others.

Accepting nothing from the Gentiles

This is what puts their motivation to the test. What John has in view here is the potential profit that can be made for traveling teachers. Though there could be some wealth earned from their going out and proclaiming Christ, they do not accept that payment. Instead, they refuse that profit and preach the gospel for the sole benefit of those who have ears to hear!

John wants Gaius to do two things for this group.

Send them on their way in a manner worthy of God and support people like these

John wants Gaius to send these people in a way that displays God’s worth. There’s so much that can be unpacked in this little clause! But for the sake of brevity, John simply wants Gaius to send these brothers in a way that’s worshipful. And by supporting them, you are saying that God is worth being proclaimed in Christ to the nations. You are declaring through your financial, physical, and spiritual support that God is worthy to be known. Through this support, you join them as fellow workers of the truth.

Was this not characteristic of John Allen Chau?

Again, though his plans for reaching the Sentinelese people were questionable, his heart is what we need more of in the Church today! We need more people who are willing to unselfishly go out for the sake of the Name for the joy of all peoples. Even more so, the Church needs to rally behind those who are called to go out to the various tongues, tribes, and peoples of the world—even if it means death.

There are billions of people in the world today who have little to no access to the gospel message. Thousands of unique people groups like the Sentinelese who are not being sought after. Does it break your heart knowing there are people who have never heard the name of Jesus, met a Christian, or listened to the gospel in their native tongue? The secular voice calls this sentiment futile and foolish. What do you call it?

What does Christmas have to do with this?

Well, if you haven’t heard this before, treasure the following. If you have already heard this, don’t forget it. Christmas is about mission! God sent Jesus to save sinners for the sake of his glory to the benefit of those who have faith in him. The Son of God went out from his heavenly dwelling for the sake of his name to preach truth to those who had ears to hear.

What better time than Advent season to ponder whether or not God is calling you to be a goer or sender (or both) in Global Missions? Instead of being completely caught up in the commercialism and holiday razzle-dazzle, would you consider praying about your participation in God’s Global Mission for the Church? Would you open your heart to the unreached and unengaged peoples of the world?

If anything, this Christmas season, let John Allen Chau’s ambition and death serve as a present-day reminder of what Jesus did for us. How he went, how he served, and how he died for those who whom he loved.

This article was written by Staff Writer Cody Irwin