In the missions world we are urged to go and spread the news of the Son of God, the only way to the Father. We believe that the one and only way to get to the Father is through believing in, and subsequently following, Jesus Christ.
What this means is that if you believe in Jesus and follow him then you will be saved; if you do not follow Jesus then you will not be saved. This is fundamental Christian doctrine. There are times, however, when the fundamental doctrine is challenged by thoughts that there are other means to salvation. A predominant means of salvation even among church goers is ignorance, that is, that ignorance of the Gospel or of God will save you. Those who are emphatic about spreading the Gospel and witnessing have no doubt found themselves in a heated discussion about “the poor, ignorant native in the jungle”. The dialogue normally goes like this:
Missionary- “If they don’t come to trust in Jesus Christ and follow him then they’re going to Hell.”
Other person- “I don’t think that’s true. I mean, what about the poor, ignorant native in the jungle who has never heard about Jesus? Would God send him to Hell if he never had a chance to hear?”
What takes place then is a huge misunderstanding on the other person’s part. How is the missionary to counter this? Simple. All it takes is a quick scrutinizing of Romans 1:18-3:20. Reading this section of scripture will show us a fundamental truth that is unquestionable, even to a rudimentary bible student.
Reading Romans 1:18-20 and 2:15, the scripture tells us that all people know that there is a God and are without excuse. This is because creation, as well as man’s conscience, testify to God’s existence and statutes. So in response a missionary could say that there are no poor, innocent people in the world. All people know that there is a God, and all people know that he is righteous because everyone has been vexed by their conscience testifying that what they are doing is wrong. That conscience come from God, who has made his existence known to all people.
Steve Saint’s book End of the Spear talks about the Waodani people who live in the amazonian region of Ecuador. If you read the book, you will see a people group viciously murdering one another despite their separation from modern culture. Even when they were completely isolated in the 1940s, they would raid and spear other tribes. The argument of any people being poor or innocent holds no water in the violent history of mankind. Romans rings true that all people are guilty of violating their God-given consciences, and are therefore punishable.
That’s where we come in. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:12, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”. We enter into other cultures which are tattered with war, theft, injustice, rape, and murder in order to tell the story that melts the heart.
However benign people make remote village life out to be in their minds, don’t believe it. Go and see for yourself.