By: Frank L. Hoffman
"Are they Missionaries or Mercenaries?" was the title of an article in the 19 June 1999 issue of U. S. News and World Report. The very fact that anyone would have to pose such a question about missionaries is telling us that something is very wrong in our churches. Right now, some of you may be saying that this is an unfair statement, for it groups all churches together when this case represents the actions of three men from a single ministry; however, while this may be true in this particular case, the underlying conditions which spawned this situation is a church-wide problem.
The three "missionaries", John Dixon, Gary Blanchard, and Joseph Pettijohn were arrested in Zimbabwe for having a van which contained 24 rifles and shotguns, 20 hand guns, nine silencers, 70 knives, and about 2,000 rounds of ammunition. Movan Enock Mahachi, Zimbabwe's Defense Minister, said, "I don't know of any missionary who carries weapons around. We have never seen a missionary who does not even carry a Bible."
These three men were members of a small nondenominational Christian group in Indiana known as Harvestfield Ministries. They were to be distributing Bibles, food and clothing, yet their leader, Jonathan Wallace, confirmed that they were also there to hunt. If this were true, then why would they need so many weapons, and particularly the silencers. But even if they were there only to hunt, it is telling us that something is wrong. It is here that I believe that the church as a whole is part of the problem.
We accept hunting, the taking of pleasure in the killing of another living being, as being an acceptable activity. The church has not spoken out with any strong voice against this practice, thus, they (we) are a part of the problem. Jesus Christ came to earth to show us the way of salvation through peace and non-violence, and in turn we were to save the whole earth - people, animals, and the environment (Romans 8:18-25).
Blood sports and war were never sanctioned by Jesus Christ. By Jesus' own example, we are to learn that it is better to die than to take a life. We also need to think about why He cleansed the temple of those selling animals for slaughter. They were selling these animals for the pleasure of it and for the money it brought them; they were neither repentant nor leading others to repentance. They were taking part in a blood-sport.
If we, as the Church, are truly going to represent the Lord's Gospel of Peace, then we also need to become equally non-violent. We can no longer walk on the fence, for if we continue, I believe that the Lord will vomit us out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). Violence of any kind does not belong in the Church, or among those who profess to be its members. These weapons are instruments of violence. They have no place in any mission or church.
It's time we stop shooting ourselves in the foot by sanitizing violence in our society and churches.