The world is so much larger than us. It is beautiful and terrible and majestic and sublime. It holds the lives of seven billion unique image bearers of God from tens of thousands of cultures and millions of subcultures. Most of these seven billion people do not know Christ.
None of this matters to the uncurious person – this is most people most of the time – because all he can think about is what’s for lunch or when new episodes of Daredevil will be on Netflix for his binge watching pleasure. He is wrapped up in his personal budget, vacation plans, work to-dos, and what is in front of his face in today’s waking hours. Uncuriosity not only doesn’t care about the world. It cannot because all it sees it what is convenient and available and comfortable right here right now.
What is the greatest obstacle to missions, to reaching the lost? Some would say apathy. Some would say a lack of awareness. Some would say comfort or laziness. All these are correct, and all of them are direct results of being uncurious.
Curiosity is a sense of things imprinted on our hearts by God so that we can be image bearers of God. It is how we observe and absorb God’s truth, God’s presence, and God’s work and it’s how we carry the message of these into the world too. When we lack curiosity we lose touch with who God is, what God has done, what God is doing, and who we are in light of that. And we lose the ability to care about those who don’t know the true God at all.
Western Christians often think we have a corner on the gospel. We think of Christian culture as western culture and vice versa. But it is not “our” gospel. One of the greatest miracles of the gospel is that it transcends every culture. That’s because it is the truth of a transcendent God who created all people. When we attach cultural values and implications to the saving truth of the gospel we often hinder it and limit its effect for those from different cultures. The gospel is not mono-cultural, we are. This is why we must be curious and open-minded enough to learn other cultures and expressions of the gospel.
Don Richardson, in his excellent book Peace Child, shares the story of how curiosity can connect the gospel to the lost. He shares his own family’s story of going to Papua New Guinea to reach the cannibalistic Sawi people. The Sawis so highly valued treachery and deceit that when the Richardsons began to share with them the story of Jesus’ life Judas, not Jesus, was the hero. By any measure their culture was one of counter-gospel.
How could the Richardsons explain the gospel to a people whose greatest values appeared to be antithetical to gospel values? The villain was their hero. The betrayer was their archetype. Don and his wife saw a way through a ritual the tribe held called the “peace child” in which warring tribes exchanged a child in order to make a truce. Through this ritual, the giving of a child by his father for the sake of peace, the Richardsons were able to introduce the gospel, showing how our heavenly Father gave His Son for the sake of our eternal peace. Could that have happened if they had not been open-minded, curious, looking for the cultural connection to truth?
This story shows how every culture intersects with truth somewhere. Every heart yearns for it. It takes curiosity, open-mindedness, and a lot of patience to see it often times. But it is there.
What we need is curious conviction – both as missions senders and missions goers. We must welcome cultural differences and perspectives without wavering in our commitment to Jesus. We must recognize that what and how we see it we see is not the entirety of truth. We must be humble enough to realize that we could be wrong in our expression and application of convictions. We often are. And we must constantly be looking for where truth and people intersect because that point is where the gospel can land.
Curiosity is not the trite trait of a hobbyist – it’s the catalyst for connecting truth to life. It is the engine that moves deeper in our understanding of God and broader in our love for His people – and for those who are not yet His people. For a sender curiosity opens the eyes to the needs of the missionary and the mission field. For a missionary curiosity opens the eyes to the fertile soil in any culture where the seeds of the Word can grow. For both senders and goers curiosity breeds empathy, a care for others in their context and need.
Such empathy is the motivation to go into all the world to make disciples. It is the tug at the heart to be the feet that bring good news (or to support those feet). So it is that curiosity is vital to missions here at home and to the ends of the earth.
For more on curiosity, ministry, life, and faith check out my latest book, The Curious Christian: How Discovering Wonder Enriches Every Part of Life.
If you would like to take a short (FREE) evaluation of your own curiosity visit CuriousChristianBook.com.