The world over is home to about 7 billion people. Did you know that most of these people (4 billion) have never heard of Jesus Christ? These 4 billion have seen neither hide nor hair of any Christian willing to share the Gospel.
The area most neglected is in the blue areas of the map above. Most of those 4 billion live here. Some missionaries refer to it as the “10/40 window” because here, between the 10th and 40th latitude, live the most unevangelized peoples. I am currently in this window for a few weeks.
Considering the urgency of such a missionary call to evangelize the Far East, we Catholics might be tempted to agree with Jefferson Bethke’s critique of religion (see previous post on his “Why I hate religion but love Jesus”) especially when there is an urgency to spread the basics of the Gospel.
Must we really talk religion when people don’t know about Jesus? I have seen significant religious cowardice this past year, so I understand why Bethke is so wary of hypocrites. I really get that. But, the difference is that I still believe wholeheartedly in the Catholic Church. Here’s why:
Jesus founded an Apostolic Church, despite the problems he knew would come. In fact, the very first priest scandal was Judas…and yet Jesus chose him.
Well, that’s old news. You already know that. But the positive of an Apostolic Church recently struck me in yesterday’s liturgy of the hours. Listen to Peter’s initial explanation of Christ to a group of Gentiles:
“They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and made Him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:39b-42)
In the bold font above, St. Peter is saying that the Apostles are not like “all the people” who will soon be speaking of Jesus. Rather, God the Father “made [Jesus] to appear not to all the people but to us,” the Apostles, precisely because they were “chosen by God.”
In other words, the Apostolic nature of his explanation is his carte blanche of credibility into their hearts. Why? Because they alone received the fullness of His teaching, and they alone remembered that Jesus said “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)
When I share the Gospel with a person on a plane, I will usually try to introduce that person to the overwhelming love of the Father in sending His Son for us. Only later in the flight do I get to a love of the Church and her moral teachings. And I guess that’s not a bad plan since Jesus did say “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
But Peter is more Church-based in his first explanation of the Gospel. He found it necessary in the above quote from Acts 10 to mention himself and the Apostles even in his very first message of Jesus to the pagans!
St. Peter shows post-modern missionaries that the Apostolic Nature of the Church is not inappreciable to reaching the lands of the 10/40 window, but central. This is why we need not be so ashamed to be both lovers of Jesus and lovers of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Why then are there so many more American Protestant families in the 10/40 window than American Catholic families here? Won’t you consider coming to share the Gospel here? They need not only part of the truth, but the fullness of the truth. See http://www.familymissionscompany.com