Why Was John Allen Chau Willing To Die?

A few weeks ago, a 26-year old American missionary was killed by bow and arrow on the beach of the remote Sentinel Island in the Indian Ocean. He was attempting a contact with one of the few isolated and unreached people groups in the world. The news sparked all kinds of reactions, mostly negative to John’s “reckless intrusion” into the lives of the peacefully isolated hunter-gatherer tribe. Was he just a careless adventurer or a passionate martyr for the Gospel? Interestingly, even a number of Christians criticized John’s ill-fated missionary attempt, some of them with strong words of condemnation.

John Chau - Photo used with permission from Covenant Journey

John Chau - Photo used with permission from Covenant Journey

What Are You Willing to Die For?

Whether John Allen Chau’s effort to reach the Sentinelese were right or misguided, what inspired him was a passion for this small group of people who still don’t know there is a God who loves them and a Savior who died for them. And passion is a powerful force burning within you, which seizes you; a power that moves you beyond ordinary human activity. Passion comes from the Latin root word passion which means “to suffer for.” Christian author and leader Floyd McClung calls it apostolic passion and explains:

Passion is what you hunger for so intensely that you will sacrifice anything to have it… It has to do with being committed to the point of death to spreading His glory.

Two Thousand Years Ago

The first followers of Jesus shared that same passion. Remember when Peter and John were arrested and brought before the authorities for healing a man in the name of Jesus. After spending the night in jail and receiving a beating, they had these words to say to their accusers and abusers:

Whether it’s right in God’s eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide. As for us, there’s no question—we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”

Acts 4:18-20 (The Message)

The Best News Can’t Be Contained

Of course, Peter and John were talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whom these same religious leaders had crucified a couple months before. Jesus had risen from the dead, and now, empowered by the Holy Spirit, these ordinary men were doing extraordinary things – like instantly healing a paralytic in front of everyone.

We can discuss John Chau’s methods, but as the Body of Christ, we must share the same passion to see the Sentinelese and the other 7,000 people groups that have yet to be reached with the Gospel. The reality is that

  • There are 2,000 languages without a Bible.

  • There are 3,000 people groups without a missionary. That includes the few dozen Sentinelese who killed John.

  • There are 1 million villages or towns in the world without a single church (defined as a local group of believers in Jesus).

Your heart and mine must burn with passion for the Gospel to reach these people, the one third of the world’s population who remain unreached with the Gospel. Until they can hear and respond to the claims of the Gospel, our hearts must continue to burn with the same passion as John Chau, who paid the ultimate price to show God’s love to these people.

Sixty years ago, on another beach in the Ecuadorian Amazon, five missionaries were speared to death by a tribal group called the Waodanis. A few years later, the widow and children of Jim Elliot, one of the five martyrs was allowed to live with the tribe that killed her husband and father, eventually leading the entire tribe to Jesus. Today, Jim’s son still serves the Waodani, alongside the man who speared his father to death. Only history will tell what John’s death will mean for the evangelization of the Sentinelese and other people groups in the world. Today we can pause to pray that his death was not in vain.