Union with Christ: our motive for mission
Henry Martyn (1781-1812), Anglican missionary, was told by a Muslim friend about a painting of Christ bowing down to Muhammad, begging for mercy. Martyn tells what happened next:
“I was cut to the soul at this blasphemy. Mirza Seid Ali perceived that I was considerably disordered and asked what it was that was so offensive? I told him that ‘I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified; it would be hell to me if he were to be always thus dishonored.’ He was astonished and again asked ‘Why?’ ‘If anyone pluck out your eyes,’ I replied, ‘there is no saying why you feel pain; it is feeling. It is because I am one with Christ that I am thus dreadfully wounded.’”
Constance E. Padwick, Henry Martyn (London, 1925), page 265. Italics original.
Martyn did not lash out at his Muslim friend. He did not complain. He did not even judge the man. Martyn only felt within himself a personal wound that struck at his own heart, his deepest love. Union with Christ, to Martyn, was more than a doctrinal abstraction. It was his lifeblood, his very identity. He winced with pain, not disgust. He turned away with sorrow, not a burning sense of wrong. It was his Muslim friend that pressed the matter further, seeing that Martyn was “considerably disordered.” Then Martyn spoke, not to correct his friend but only to explain himself.
The gospel goes out in greatest power and purity through love for Christ.