Missionaries: painting pictures of God

Dournes comments on a potentially terrifying aspect of missionary work:

We do not fully realize the dreadfully heavy responsibility of the missionary who is the very first to come and give a picture of God to people who know nothing of him. The picture once painted, the paint is too bright and fresh for any correction to be made. If my behaviour gives the lie to it, or if a Christian passing through causes scandal, the work is totally ruined. This is probably the worst suffering a missionary can undergo.

Of course, this aspect of missionary work is an aspect of all intentional Gospel witness — not just in overseas missions, let alone (as Dournes here relates) in pioneer missions. Apart from grace, the task would be too heavy, the risks too great for fallen people like us. But God can and does revise the pictures we paint of him: it isn’t just us at work, but the Spirit.

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