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posted Mar 21, 2013, 8:15 AM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Mar 21, 2013, 11:18 PM ]
By Zachary T. Francis

Matthew 28 commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” But how do we reach people for Christ? In Haiti, it would be very difficult to preach the gospel as a woman if you were wearing shorts because Christian women in Haiti always wear skirts. In some parts of Africa, many preach the gospel by telling picture stories because that is what resonates with them. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 states the following:

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

So if I am a women going to Haiti, I need to make sure to wear skirts to church so they do not focus on what I am wearing. To the person in Africa that resonates with picture stories, I focus on those instead of reading five chapters of scripture. If I was a musician in America, I wouldn't go to a traditional non-denominational church that is used to hymns and start playing Christian heavy metal music. Not because Christian heavy metal is bad, but because the church would focus more on what I am playing than the words that are focused on Jesus. But what about people who struggle with self-harm? How do we help those people see the power that Jesus can do in their lives?

A few weeks ago, I heard a deeply respected pastor say “No Christian would self mutilate”. At a recent visit to a Christian youth center in Mississippi, I saw 50% of the kids raise their hands saying they have thought of cutting/burning/hitting themselves while none of the adults in the room, many of whom are teachers, had even heard of self-harm. I even have heard a story during my research on self-harm about a Christian counselor who told their patient that “God hates that they cut their body,” citing the Scripture about protecting the temple. Not once did this counselor, as far as I understand it, mention their inner pain.

I believe these kinds of things are happening because we are not following the Scripture in 1 Corinthians 9. To win those who are involved in self-harm, I become like those who self-harm. Now I don’t believe that means we start cutting ourselves, but I do think it means we try to understand what self-harm is; why people do it, what emotional pain they go through. How can we reach someone for Christ if we don’t understand the walls that are guarding their heart? How can we share the gospel if we don’t know how the person we preach to will receive it?

One of our passions with this film project is to form a network where Christians can understand about self-harm.  Because we believe, like the people who live in Haiti or Africa or the traditional non-demo national church, that everyone needs to be understood.  After all, in order to win people to the gospel we must learn what resonates with them. I believe that is what Paul is saying when he states “I become all things to all people so by all possible means I might save some.”