Piper Stepping In It (Again)?

HT: Dee at TWW

John Piper provides this advice, answering the question of “should we take our children to dangerous mission zones?”

Piper begins with this:

Should a Christian couple take their children into danger as part of their mission to take the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world? Short answer: Yes.

Why? Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.

First of all, John is providing advice that has scant Biblical precedent, with the closest example perhaps being Paul’s mentorship of Timothy. Even then, we have no indication of Timothy’s age when he begins his tours of duty with Paul. Moreover, Paul does not provide this advice to parents regarding their children. In other words, what Paul did with Timothy is not a general command to other parents.

(My advice: that’s a judgment call, and that is totally up to the parents to decide upon prayer, prudent counsel, searching the Scriptures,  and appropriate deliberation, regarding whether the child(ren) is (are) of sufficient maturity and motivation for such a trip.)

Moreover, Piper is making a bold pronouncement as to why parents should take their children into dangerous regions: “Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world.”

Does Piper have any statistics to back up his claim? I’ve met no small number of adults–who have abandoned the faith–who were raised by missionary parents or even pastors who served stateside, who sacrificed everything, including their kids, for the Gospel.

Don’t get me wrong here: I’m against a childrearing paradigm that insists on a “sheltered life”. I would also argue, and Piper would probably agree, that parents ought to take more initiative in preparing their children to engage the world and to expect that the world is not going to be particularly enamored with their Christian faith.

Fact is, the United States is a post-Christian nation and Western Civilization is in serious decline. Where the Christian was once highly-respected in the public square in Europe and the United States, that is no longer the case: Christians are under increasing pressure to keep everything close to the vest.

In other regions, it is more tenuous: in the Middle East, a public expression of Christian faith could get you jailed if not killed. In Islamic countries, if your father is a Muslim and you convert to Christianity, you could face anything from a prison sentence to a death sentence.

I’ve never been to those regions, but I am aware of the risks of being a Christian. As a Christian of Kurdish ethnicity who has studied such matters, I don’t have to go to Mosul wearing a sign that says, “Allah is a demon and Muhammed was a child rapist” to appreciate the risks that Christians in Iraq and Syria face every day.

I have also spent long hours studying the plight that Christians endured–and, in the cases of North Korea and China and Cuba, continue to endure–under totalitarian regimes, particularly communism. Abigail will not need to go to North Korea to learn such things.

In my younger days, as an old-school Cold War conservative, I tried to get into the military. And had my country called my name, I would have answered the call to fight. But my health issues–from asthma to severe disk problems in my back–precluded me from military service. And, at 50, I’d say that ship has long sailed. It won’t be happenin’.

Will Abigail go on mission trips when she reaches an appropriate age? I don’t see why she wouldn’t. The issue is where? There are plenty of missions opportunities here in the States, not to mention Central and South America, and those have risks of their own even if their volatility doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of Damascus or Raqqa or Kirkuk or East St. Louis.

If she wants to go to the Middle East or Niger or Sudan or the south side of Chicago, that’ll be up to her, although MrsLarijani and myself will ensure that she has counted the cost–and I’m not just talking financial–before she embarks on any such venture.

But is there an overarching Biblical prescription for parents to make their kids take those kinds of risks? Not really. Like I said, that’s a judgment call and there’s no blanket one-size-fits-all answer.

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