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What About Unreached People?

Updated: 7 days ago


Blog title card; topic is objections to Christianity
What About Unreached People?

Christian, have you ever given the gospel to someone and received a question in response? “Why are there so many Christians denominations?” “What about all the contradictions in the Bible?” “What about the Crusades?” “Why is there evil in the world?” There are others. Sometimes unbelievers ask questions honestly. Most of the time, the person simply wants to justify his unbelief and hopes the question will make the conviction of the truth go away. Most of the time, the question can be answered simply. After all, Christianity is 2000 years old; it’s almost impossible for an unbeliever to ask a question that hasn’t been addressed in the last two millennia. However, some questions should be revisited simply to reorient our perspective on God’s dealings with the world.


Consider the question, “What about those who haven’t heard?” It is possible to answer that question several different ways. You might reference John 4:35 and Luke 10:2 to say that unbelievers are willing to hear, and God is ready to send, but that believers are not willing to go. You could demonstrate from Romans 1:19-23 that creation testifies to God’s existence as Creator, but that unbelievers have rejected the light they have been given. You might quote Acts 17:27 and Romans 2:7-11 as proof that God is more accessible to the unreached that we often think.


Here is another possible response to the question of unreached people. It is neither new nor novel, but perhaps it will direct us to glorify God’s wisdom, justice, and mercy.

 In the west, we think much in terms of individuals—individual liberties, individual souls, and individual relationships with God. However, God deals with people not only as individuals, but also in groups, such as families, churches, and nations. It’s clear from history that an individual person’s opportunities are restricted by the condition and behavior of his family group and nation. For example, the Samaritan woman in John 4 had certain kinds of misunderstandings about the Lord because of the culture she grew up in. Every category we measure, including wealth, education, health, social stability, political freedom, religion, are strongly influenced by the decisions of family and governmental authority structures. Many times these decisions were made many lifetimes ago.


God designed the world with these authority structures. He “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath appointed the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). In the book of Daniel, God judged Babylon through the representative of kings Nebuchadnezzar and Belteshazzar. Daniel confessed to God the sins of his people that he did not personally commit. Moses was born in Egypt because his forefathers had moved there, and he was raised in the court of Pharaoh because of decisions his parents made. Part of the narrative of Scripture is showing how God uses such events beyond the control of individuals to accomplish His purposes.


From these Scriptural examples and many others, we see that God works through authority structures and mediating agencies to spread the knowledge of Himself. Individuals can benefit enormously from this divine arrangement. For example, America’s being a historically Christian nation means that people who individually resist Christian influence still have opportunities to hear the truth. There is almost nation-wide access to the Christian message in the US, even for individuals who remain unbelievers their whole life. On the other hand, some peoples experience great disadvantages from the behavior of their authorities. For example, Christian-influenced Europe introduced opium in China at the beginning of the 1800s. In response to being exploited by these European forces, the Chinese national government expelled Christian missionaries at the turn of the 1900s. After World War II, the communists defeated the nationalists and established an atheistic religious state, further restricting Chinese access to the message of Christ.


These world events get complicated quickly. The point is, though, that God made the world to be governed by actions that are bigger than single individuals. That Rahab believed in the Lord is amazing because she rejected the influence of her culture’s darkness to do it. Christian Jews lost their homeland’s capital in A.D. 70 because of God’s judgment on the nation of Israel. From the examples of Saul, and David, and Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus, and the scribes and Pharisees, we see that individuals’ access to the truth is strongly influenced by the behavior of the leaders and forefathers. We see also that the actions of leaders and forefathers can provide great advantages or disadvantages to their people. Finally, we see that God holds leaders accountable for what happens in their nations, families, and churches.


There are several important truths that provide nuance, however. One is that God will always provide national windows of opportunity for peoples to hear the truth. One example is Japan. The country expelled Christian missionaries in the 1600s and remained closed off for centuries. However, Japan opened to the world following World War II and the gospel was allowed into the nation. Two, Romans 1-2 teach us that God operates through this principle: if individuals respond to the available opportunities to know Him, however small, He will provide them with additional opportunities. There are stories throughout history of people of other religions or in closed countries who sought God and learned of Christ in unexpected ways. Third, God works even in nations dark to the gospel in ways we don't expect. For example, Christianity has a considerable presence in Muslim Iran, communist China, and was present in the atheistic Soviet Union. Muslims have converted because they have had visions of Jesus. Bibles are smuggled even into restricted nations.


Finally, there are two important truths to remember. The first is something we can observe in the United States: people resist the truth when they are presented with it, often out of stubbornness or a desire to maintain the lifestyle they love. Families, nations, and individuals are all like this: they often don't do what is best for themselves or those under their authority. We humans are often our own worst enemies, even when God is clearly reaching out to us. The people in closed countries or in other religions are just like unbelieving Americans. They are not necessarily any more likely than we are to accept the opportunities they have to hear the truth. Two, the Christian effort to have a Christian America is extremely loving to our fellow citizens. Since the Christian faith is true, it is of the greatest advantage that a child is born into a nation with much cultural understanding of Christ. Imagine the advantage of living in a country flooded with the light of the truth! We Christians want this for our fellow citizens, lest we end up like the nations whose citizens live in darkness.

 

The above article was written by Jonathan Kyser. He is a pastoral assistant at NorthStone Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL. To offer him your feedback, comment below or email us at strengthforlife461@gmail.com.


Every Tuesday, SFL publishes relevant Bible-based content. Check back next Tuesday to read the next SFL article.

 

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