The Martyr Paradox

A young missionary was recently murdered on a remote island off the coast of India while attempting to share the gospel with the most isolated tribe in the world. Some are calling him a martyr. I personally can’t help but see him a little more as a trespasser. But what do I know.

While this loss is surely a tragedy, from the reports in the news it doesn’t seem like he lost his life because of the gospel, which is typically what martyrdom is associated with, he lost his life by trespassing on territory he was clearly not welcome. Cuz yea, imagine if I walked into a strangers house unannounced and uninvited and the owner killed me, it doesn’t matter if I had godly intentions, I am still a criminal and possible threat under his roof. He would be right in defending his own territory.

Would the world be a better place if people stop imposing their religion on others?

Well, first off, in regards to imposition, many people, not just religious people, will want to impose their thoughts and opinions on you, much like what I’m doing writing this article, but it’s your prerogative to not carry someone else’s ideological burden on your shoulders if you don’t want to.

But other than that, it really got me thinking, even though he knew it was illegal to go to that remote island, the young man deceived the officers in his tourist visa application omitting his missionary agenda, then bribed his way there against the law and ended up losing his life – but to him it was worth it to “declare Jesus to these people.”

Was it an extreme act and unnecessary waste of life?

On the one hand, that is so crazy. And definitely not smort.

On the flip side, the gospel was spread throughout the world at the sacrifices of many martyrs who died for their faith. Martyrs who went against local laws and propagated ‘The Way’. Many people today lay their lives on the line to spread the gospel ‘at all costs’. They are completely sold out to the Great Commission even if it means doing things illegally and having to pay the consequences.

 So what then? Is it wrong? Should preaching be confined only within the legal boundaries of the church? Yes. No. Maybe. I don’t know. Can you repeat the question?

In my opinion, yes, preaching should be in church like how teaching is in school. There is a designated place where people go to get what they expect. There are many instances the gospel shouldn’t be forced. Like how you don’t want to be forced to be taught something against your will. You wouldn’t want some random person teaching you trigonometry on the 6pm bus for two hours against your will. Or guilting you on the streets dooming you eternity in math-less hell if you don’t find ‘x’. Or, I don’t know, maybe you might like that. Asians love math.

I personally think in missionary work, a key element is sincerity in meeting the needs of the people you’re reaching out to. Malaysia was a place colonised by the British and when their missionaries came over, they built schools, railways, hospitals, libraries, roads, etc. Sure, they ransacked our land and took away our rights and spices but besides that, they left parts of our country better than before. Hey, we’ve had local politicians do worse damage.

But is that how we want any missionaries today operating? Trespassing, sneaking around, lying to immigration officials; hurting some parts but leaving some parts better than before. And what a bad name to people actually going about it the right way.

I can’t speak on God’s behalf or other people, but for me, the spiritual journey of any one person is an open invitation.The invitation to discuss ideology and religion is most times approachable but also, ‘No, means no’. Perhaps what we need most is the discernment to understand the boundaries.

And maybe, just maybe, listening would be a better idea.

Thinking of: Trevor Noah’s You Laugh But It’s True

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