Was Murdered Missionary John Chau An Arrogant Fool?

You can’t honestly assess whether Chau (or any Christian) is loving or arrogant without determining whether the message of Jesus true.

Local laws were developed to protect their indigenous culture and guard them against the threat of disease. Reports of grotesque evil done to them in days past may fuel their resistance of outsiders. Yet Chau chose to ignore all this to go on his mission. Some have charged him with arrogant hostility, saying he got what he deserved.

 

For months, John Chau prayed, planned, and journaled about reaching the Sentinelese people with the good news of Jesus. On the morning of November 15, 2018, he attempted contact for the first time but was met with an onslaught of arrows, narrowly escaping with his life.

That evening he penned a prayer from a boat offshore, “God, I don’t want to die…[but] if you want me to get killed with an arrow then so be it.” To his parents he wrote, “you guys might think I’m crazy…but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people. Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed.”

The following day, Chau returned to the island, but this time it cost him his life. According to on-looking fisherman, the Islanders were seen dragging Chau’s lifeless body with a rope. His mission had ended, but his quest has sparked much conversation and a compelling question has surfaced concerning this man who walked toward flying arrows to bring the archers news about forgiveness from God.

Was John Chau an arrogant fool who sought to impose his views on people who didn’t want to hear them?

It is well known that the Sentinelese community had no desire to communicate with outsiders. Local laws were developed to protect their indigenous culture and guard them against the threat of disease. Reports of grotesque evil done to them in days past may fuel their resistance of outsiders. Yet Chau chose to ignore all this to go on his mission. Some have charged him with arrogant hostility, saying he got what he deserved.

The way we ought to evaluate John Chau’s dying actions, whether they are good or bad, depends (from the Christian perspective at least) on whether Jesus is who He claimed to be. In fact, you can’t honestly assess whether Chau (or any Christian) is loving or arrogant without determining whether the message of Jesus true.

Good News for the Sentinelese People

The Bible claims that Jesus is the Son of God who left heaven’s glory to warn us of coming judgment and offer salvation to any who will believe (John 3:16-20). But it also says that mankind did not receive the truth-imposing savior (John 1:11-14). In fact, humanity so hated Jesus’ message that we tortured Him to death through crucifixion (John 19:1-37).

Yet, the scandalous message of the Bible is that Jesus intentionally laid down his life for His people and rose from the dead to offer forgiveness and fullness of joy to all who believe in Him. If this is true, and if John Chau went on his mission to proclaim this good news, then he was much more of a friend than an arrogant fool (Acts 4:10-12; 10:42-43). In fact, if the good news about Jesus is true, then all Christians, like Chau, best show love by risking everything to tell the world.

In his going, should Chau have considered the danger of bringing potentially fatal infection to the island? Certainly. Most Christian missions agencies take precaution to ensure the physical safety of the workers and those they aim to reach. This is part of loving our neighbor. But believers also know that the spiritual safety of people is of far greater importance. It is the spiritual infection of our sin, which separates us from God that stands as our greatest threat, whether we live on Long Island or an isolated one.

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