Monday, March 05, 2007

what He deserves

Major Edit:

An anonymous commenter left a note saying that the story below is historically inaccurate. Accordingly, I spent about an hour this morning looking for reliable versions of it. A.C. was right, but the real story is not so far off.

A while back (think 1909), a fellow named J.E. Hutton wrote a history of the Moravian church which includes an account of this event. A little background: the Moravians were a group of Christians in what is now Czechoslovakia. They'd been around a goodly length of time, but in 1727 they experienced a revival under the leadership of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf. Remarkably for his time, the good count took an interest in the masses of people outside of the western world who had not heard the gospel. He met a slave from the Danish-owned island of St. Thomas who told him that no one could minister to the slaves in the West Indies without first becoming slaves themselves.

The idea startled Zinzedorf's community, but it also gripped them. Two young men, a potter and carpenter named Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann, decided after prayer and drawing lots that they would go. They set out for Denmark, meeting discouragement at every turn, and there realized that they could not actually sell themselves into slavery. Nonetheless, they took ship to St. Thomas and helped found many churches there.

The Moravians were the first major Protestant missionary movement: Dober and Nitschmann beat even William Carey to the field. The watchword of the Moravian missionary movement was the phrase that so caught my attention when I first read the (skewered) version of this tale: "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering."

I've left part of the original post below, as an interesting example of how prettified versions of stories are easily spread. Thanks for the tip, whoever you are!

* * *

"Have You Heard The One About the Two Moravians & The Slave Owner?"

In the 1700s two young Moravians heard of an island in the West Indies where an atheist British owner had 2,000 to 3,000 slaves. The owner had said, "No preacher, no clergyman will ever stay on this island. If he’s shipwrecked we’ll keep him in a separate house until he has to leave, but he’s never going to talk to any of us about God. I’m through with all that nonsense." Three thousand slaves from the jungles of Africa brought to an island in the Atlantic, and there to live and die without ever hearing of Christ. Two young Moravians heard about it and decided to do something about it. They sold themselves to the British planter and then used the money they received from the sale to pay their passage out to his island, because he refused even to transport them. The Moravians came from Herrnhutt to see these two lads off. They were in their early twenties and would never return again, for they had sold themselves into lifetime slavery, simply that as slaves they could be as Christians among these others. The families were there weeping for they knew they would never see them again. And they wondered why they were going and questioned the wisdom of it. The ship slowly left its pier on the river at Hamburg, heading out to the North Sea, carried with the tide. As the gap widened and the hawsers had been cast off and were being curled up there on the pier, the two young men looked shoreward. Finally one lad with his arm linked through the arm of his fellow raised his hand and shouted across the gap the last words that were ever heard from them: "May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering."

(story used by permission of the Parousia Network)

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3 Comments:

Blogger Rachel Rossano said...

That is very convicting. After all, Christ gave His life for us. How can we hold back even the smallest part of our own lives from Him. Thanks for sharing the story.

9:11 AM  
Blogger Brittany Simmons said...

Oh my word. That is powerful. Beautiful story.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too bad it's historically false.

Oh well. That's Christianity for you.

11:02 PM  

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