20 Nov Christ and His Gospel are never bound.
2 Timothy 2:8-9
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound!
The natural reaction was despair. As we updated each other during our recent AsiaCMS planning retreat, it was clear that the challenges are cranking up. In many countries we are working in, there are added obstacles, even for routine expressions of faith. Our local mission partners are having it tough. Governments are more aligned with religious fundamentalism and for some, economic downturns.
Legislation and state-machinery are increasingly used to restrict, obstruct and at times, harass. Misinformation, internet tracking and hacking add to security concerns. There are also more restrictions on how we can send funding and people to help. All of these compounds challenges already faced by Christians living as a minority faith.
Yet, we are reminded to take a posture of faith.
Paul confidently asserted from his prison cell that although he is “bound with chains as a criminal… the word of God is not bound!”
The power and life of the gospel go beyond us, its bearers.
The gospel is about Christ, and His influence is never limited by our constraints, nor that of His church. Andrew Walls notes that the influence of Christ and His gospel is to be distinguished from the community that bears His name. “Vital as the church may be as a vehicle of Christ’s influence, it is stultifying to identify its influence with His.” Apart from us, Christ has His own means to advance His mission. The gospel has an innate transformative power, often crossing cultural boundaries to take new root in new communities, with new expressions. With a touch of irony, Walls adds, “no one is saved through Christianity – though it may be possible to be damned through it.”
God’s redemptive purposes encompass individuals and peoples outside the established circles of His “chosen people.”
Rahab, who saved the two Israelites spies sent to Jericho, was a pagan Gentile. She is a prostitute to boot (Josh.2). Ruth, the grandmother of King David, was a Moabite (Ruth). Both are listed in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus (Mt.1:5). Cyrus, a pagan Persian king, was God’s “shepherd” and “His anointed” to open the doors for the Israelites to return from captivity (Isa.44:28-45:1). Cornelius, instrumental in breaking Peter out of his Jewish exclusiveness, was a Roman Gentile soldier (Acts 10).
God uses what human eyes perceive as setbacks to advance His mission.
It was a Jewish slave girl taken captive in an army raid who introduced Namaan, a pagan Syrian army commander, to the healing grace of Yahweh (2 Kings 5). St. Patrick, who spearheaded the fifth century spiritual breakthrough into Ireland, was captured at the age of 16 by a group of Irish pirates. It was while enslaved in Ireland that his faith developed. Many years later, after escaping back to England, he returned to Ireland as a missionary priest. When missionaries were expelled from China after the Communists took over in 1949, little was known about the church there for the next thirty years. But God was at work amidst the persecution inside. When the windows into China reopened in the late 1970s, the number of Christians had multiplied from 4 million in 1949 to about 70 million.
What do all these mean to us?
First, let’s guard ourselves against an Elijah-complex (1 Kings 19). We are not God’s only means. He has other channels and people apart from us. What He is doing in His mission is much bigger than the part we can contribute.
That being said, let’s seize the opportunities that He does open for us – doing it faithfully, and with faith.
Lastly, let’s fervently and consistently pray. As you read our updates, it is not merely for information. It is our earnest request for your prayers.
Peace and Grace,
Rev. Chan NamChen (PhD)
 Walls, Andrew F. The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History (2002), pp. 9,13.