“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
We recently made a visit to Kansas City to visit my daughter and her family. While there, my wife and I visited several museums (yeah, we do that kind of thing 😊). One of the museums was about the Shawnee Mission, established in the early 1850’s for the Native American families who were being displaced by an influx of pioneer white settlers.
Not enough space here to unravel that devastation of Native American land and culture, but let’s just look at the process of evangelization that Christians brought to these Plains People. I bring this up because the way that we sometimes try to evangelize people into the Christian faith is to impress a need for personal salvation. That is, an inward acceptance of the need for Jesus as Savior and Lord.
That point has great merit, in that we cannot save ourselves, and that we need the grace of God for salvation. At the same time, the Shawnee and many other Native Americans found the idea of such a personal salvation bewildering. They had collective community beliefs about a relationship to God. Salvation was a tribal and community understanding of how God connects with people.
The way that the Gospel was presented for some centuries to displaced peoples was part gracious, and part need to control and enforce conformity to norms that were foreign to the evangelized.
I cannot speak to the motives of all missionary work. Undoubtedly, many missionaries, even most, had pure hearts and right motives. Yet it gives me pause to think about salvation itself. Does a simple personal decision make all the difference? Or does that change of mind need to be accompanied by a change of heart, attitude and behaviors.
Prayer: Lord, help us to hear as well as share the stories of your love, Amen