At Christmas we celebrate the birth of God’s Messiah, His gift to Israel and to the world.
As a young Christian interested in missions I came across books authored by a Canadian missionary named Don Richardson. Richardson lived among animistic tribal people in Western New Guinea in the nation of Indonesia. During his years of working with indigenous peoples he came to an intriguing conclusion. He believed that hidden in each tribal religion was what he called a “redemptive analogy,” some understanding, language construct, or practice unique to the culture that God had placed as a bridge to illustrate a truth from the gospels or the larger scriptural narrative. These analogies became the starting point to help bring indigenous peoples to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The story of Richardson’s journey into this understanding is recorded his 1970s classic, Peace Child. This book tells the powerful story of how a cultural practice among a stone-age tribe, the Sawi, strongly echoed God’s gift of His only begotten son. When warring villages wanted to make peace, the one sure method was for a couple from one village to voluntarily give up their baby to a couple in another village. Sometimes only such a costly gift–the offering of a peace child from his own deeply grieving parents–could achieve peace.
Another book, Eternity in Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World (1981) relates the further progress of Richardson’s pilgrimage, i.e. coming to recognize God’s gift of common grace that allows all people to know something of God’s existence and His divine nature (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1: 19-20).
Richardson’s idea about redemptive analogies and common grace contributed to the material that I have written on The Transforming Story.
As we approach Christmas, it is fitting that we remember that the Messiah, born of the Jews, was a messiah for all peoples.
Enjoy this chapter from Richardson’s book Eternity in Their Hearts.
– Darrow Miller