A Man Named James
I want to tell you about a perfectly astonishing fellow, our translator James. He accompanied Jason and me when we went to the Gujis. I truly believe he was willing to sacrifice his life to go where he felt God was calling him and to stay loyal to brothers whom he had only recently met.
And what was the danger? James is a Burji, and Burjis are not very welcome these days among the Gujis. It took courage and Holy Spirit-sized faith to reach out beyond his comfort zone to people who both fear and hate the Burjis.
I recall our final day among the Gujis. Several Burjis had been shot and killed. As we were driving from Gujiland back to Burji, we passed several men armed with spears and rifles. James quietly slunk down in the car so as not to be seen. This was prudence, not cowardice, on his part. All of us have only one life to live, and it would be irresponsible to waste it unnecessarily. Eventually we arrived safely back in Burjiland. Immediately after that, the road was closed. We were the last people to travel it for many weeks.
I find it encouraging that there are young men today who, like Epaphroditus of old, are willing to gamble their lives away for the sake of the Gospel (see Phil. 2:30). They are fearless in making Jesus known, and motivated supremely by love. There are few things so moving as to see young Christians making a bold and costly investment in the kingdom.
In the New Testament, the word “martyr” meant to be a witness. It did not originally refer to a person who suffered death for a cause. In those days, a man died because he was a martyr. He was not a martyr because he died.
I think there is a lesson here for us. It is when we have really understood the actual cost of discipleship, when we have understood the plight of our enemies, when we have heard their cries and have shared their suffering and despair, then we will be able to proclaim the Word of God to them – but not until then!
January 4, 2009
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.