Handing out Bibles

Just a thought about missionaries. Our church, along with many other Baptist churches, has regularly sent missionaries as part of Baptist teams over to India and Africa. They are gentle, respectful of local customs (other than those that deny our Lord), and their first goal is to gain the trust of the locals. If they can help the locals with some problem-solving, such as building a better shelter, arranging better medical care, and the usual humanitarian ends, this is the entree to preaching the gospel. Of course they provide Bibles as part of their preaching, and arrange to have Bibles printed in the local languages if that is feasible.

Then I got to thinking about the usual harsh criticism of so-called secular humanists (English translation: those who have too much faith in their lack of it). You know the type: the scornful criticism of those overly-moralistic and judgmental Christians, who let the locals wallow in filth and disease, and starve, while they sing hymns and hand out Bibles. Of the sort made infamous by the Abner Hale character in James Michener’s Hawaii.

There likely were many missionaries of that stripe in the past, but I suspect not nearly as many as the secularists would like to believe. We all have our fairy tales; theirs is about how evil Christianity must be. After all, they, being the superior intellectual types that they are, must have rejected it for good reason. The truth is that it is most likely that past Christian missionaries didn’t just sing hymns and distribute Bibles, but did pretty much as today’s Baptists do. That is, try to improve the lot of the locals, and get in some preaching while so doing.

But here’s the kicker. If you give a starving man a Bible, and nothing else, have you not helped him, at least potentially, to seek eternal salvation? Mind you, I don’t advocate just handing out Bibles. Not if you’re able to provide material assistance as well. Just let’s not forget the power of the Gospels, that, even without so-called material assistance, provide the hope needed to survive the day.

And, who knows, survive eternity.

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