Is a religion necessarily tied down to an individual country? Or is it simply a bundle of morals and ethics tossed into the air for any tribe to grab in their time of need? These are questions that tend to arise in the mission fields, often surrounding a claim that pierces the ears of the missionary like fingernails on a chalkboard: “Christianity is an American religion.” It can be a major thorn in the side and disengage your heart from ministry if you let it. However, we know from history that ideologies travel along trade routes like the famed Silk Road just as people do, spreading religions far and wide past their original boundaries. For instance, Buddhism is one of two dominant faiths here in Japan, yet it is not originally from the country at all. It was imported from China, which actually received it centuries earlier from India. With that in mind, Christianity is most definitely not an American religion, having exploded in growth out of the middle eastern Levant (Israel, Cyprus, Syria, Jordan, etc.) 2000 years before there every were a United States. Does that make it middle eastern in origin then? In the secular sense yes, but if you believe the words of Christ, then no.
“But he continued, “You are from below, I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” – John 8:23
“Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36
The gospel: the “good news” of God wrapping Himself in flesh, adopting a humble position as Son, and pouring out His own life blood for the world on a cursed human instrument of torture, is inconceivable by man. The miracle of this resurrected Son, Jesus, leaving His grave in power and might, proving the divinity of the Almighty; a slap in the face of human reason. The grace that sets a soul free from eternal death by simply believing this event happened instead of dependence on endless rituals or great intellect? A war with human pride. In short, nothing about the blessed hope laid down by Jesus Christ is earthly at all.
That is because the realm that birthed Christianity is heaven, a place ruled by a God culture and therefore governed by truths and ideals that confound human thinking. I’m learning how important this is to stress when conducting ministries in foreign lands, where your mission efforts can be so easily likened to imperialism or offensive globalization. As a missionary, we need to let our listeners know that we ourselves are also submitted to a faith that belongs to no nation but is from above, a holy standard that comes from comparing oneself to God instead of the world. Even the angels, whose faces burn bright like lightning, must cover themselves in reverence before Him. They humble themselves and direct their actions according to the Almighty’s will. Likewise, the missionary is surrendering to the Lord’s heavenly agenda, not an American one, nor a Japanese one or any other nation that sits underneath the living God. As we grow in this God culture, we will begin to see where the “good” of the world eventually detours down an alternate, often compromising path and the way of Christ continues leading us up to heaven. So much is waiting for us; a remnant of humanity from every tribe and race answering the call of Jesus to live as new citizens in God’s kingdom.