When people are really passionate about something, they don’t generally keep it to themselves. Sports fans wear jerseys. People put bumper stickers on their cars. Others bring up politics wherever they go–birthday parties, weddings, funerals, etc. Social media exists, and the masses use it. Clearly, human beings are wired to express our love for the things we love. Some more so than others. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, our praise completes our joy–we haven’t fully enjoyed something until we’ve told others about it and have invited them into it. There are exceptions, of course, but the majority of the time we want others to care about the things we care about. And, though we’re reluctant to admit it, we’re saddened (or outraged) when they don’t.
How much more is this true when the thing we care about is not only a passing interest, but an essential reality to our very existence–something that if it were taken away from us, we would cease to be who we truly are. So it is with Christians and Jesus Christ. We exist “in Christ.” If you were to somehow remove him, all that we are would go with him. He is our Life. Apart from him we can do nothing, and we are nothing. When a person comes to know Jesus Christ in all of his beauty, love, compassion, wisdom, power and glory, it should come as no surprise that he or she would desire others to know him and to be burdened when others don’t. We want others to have Life in Christ, forever.
An illustration. This is an old, sad and true story from my previous work.
There were two children living in a secluded village in Sub-Saharan Africa, a boy who was about five years old and a girl who was two years old, if I’m remembering correctly. Like many children in their area, they did not know their father and depended solely upon their mother, who was sick with HIV/AIDS. When she died, they were left without anyone to care for them. The five year old boy, now the caretaker, led his sister from house to house, looking for food. After several weeks, the children–who were already malnourished while their mother was alive–looked as though they wouldn’t live much longer. A woman from the village told them that they needed to go to an orphanage in a nearby town–it would be the only place where they could find food.
The pastor who ran the orphanage already had too many children to house and feed. So, when the two newly orphaned children arrived, he regrettably turned them away. An older orphan saw the little boy and girl turning back and begged the pastor to let him share his own food. The boy set out to find them, but they were already gone. The pastor, feeling guilty for having turned them away, went out to search. He, too, was unsuccessful and for several days was weighed down by grief. Two weeks later, he saw something lying in a ditch. He bent down, picked up a lifeless body and saw the face of the two year old girl he had turned away. She tragically, but not surprisingly, starved to death. The pastor never found her older brother.
Now, I like to think every single one of us, if given the opportunity, would do whatever we could to give those two kids food. The thought that there are children in the world who are starving to death is emotionally unbearable for anyone who is willing to actually consider it. But, it is a reality. On average, somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 children under the age of five die every day from hunger-related causes.
Though most people do not have the same emotional response, it is equally true and eternally more tragic that there are–according to conservative estimates–two billion people who will never have the opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life, whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). The context of John 6 makes it clear–Jesus does for the human soul what food does for the human body. As surely as food is needed for life, so Jesus is needed for eternal life. People will eat and eat and eventually die. But, if people eat the Bread of Life, they will live forever. It is good to share food with the hungry; how much greater is it to share Jesus Christ.
The above story about the two children in Africa is an illustration of a spiritual reality for over two billion people in the world today. They could go door-to-door looking for Bread that gives life and is Life, and they will not find it. They will starve, unless someone goes to offer them Food. We have the opportunity to do just that. We have what they need, whether they know they need him or not. His name is Jesus Christ. We love him. He is everything to us. It is only natural that we want others to forever share in everything that we have in him. That’s why we care deeply about unreached people groups, and that’s why we will, Lord willing, go.