By Garry and Steve Weaver (also posted on my dad’s blog; Training Real Missionaries)
It was over 20 years ago that we first read Peace Child. In this book, Don Richardson tells the story of his encounter with an unreached people group in the early 1960s. In 1962, Richardson, his wife Carol and their 7 month old son arrived in what was then known as Dutch New Guinea, to begin work among a violent, cannibalistic, head hunting tribe called the Sawi.
The task before them was great because the Sawi language did not exist in any written form. They would have to learn the language by living with the people and slowly accumulate a vocabulary while at the same time giving the language a written form. This was difficult, discouraging and time consuming work but necessary before they could even begin to translate Scripture into the Sawi language for evangelism.
Their task was complicated by the constant tribal wars that kept the young missionary family in a continual state of danger. Not only was their task complicated by danger, but even after Don had reached a level of proficiency in the tribal language, so that he was able to present the story of the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus, he was confronted with a seemingly insurmountable problem involving their perverted system of moral values. A world view that made Judas Iscariot the hero of the crucifixion story.
Frustrated by their lack of progress in seeing conversions take place among the Sawi and frightened by the continual warfare that threatened the safety of his young family, Don issued an ultimatum: Either the fighting would stop or Don would take his family and leave. Because they valued the medical care provided by the Richardsons so highly, the Sawi took the dramatic step of ending the fighting. Unbeknownst to the missionary, the Sawi had a tradition that if warring tribes were going to enter into a peace treaty, then one of the tribes would have to give an infant from their tribe to their mortal enemies. After observing the ceremony that included the giving of the infant, known as the “peace child” to their enemies, Don knew he had at last had an open door to communicate the gospel. As soon as he could he gathered the tribe together and told them of how though they were enemies of God because of their sin, God had given his only Son as a “peace child” to make peace with his enemies.
Today, on this Good Friday we are remembering how God gave His only begotten Son to be our “peace child.” We are the natural enemies of God because of our sin, but God in His grace chose to provide a sacrifice for us to be reconciled to Him. This reconciliation came as a result of God’s Son making peace through the blood of His cross (Colossians 1:20). Don’t ever forget what it cost to establish peace between sinful humans and a holy God. I believe that John Piper has said it best when he said, “The wisdom of God devised a way for the love of God to deliver sinners from the wrath of God while not compromising the righteousness of God.” That way was through the sacrifice of God’s “peace child.”