This week we had a discussion with a missionary about the challenge of peoples’ understandings of “Christianity” in cultures and societies dominated by other faiths. The context was this worker’s experiences and a discussion of a Hindu background believer, Narayan V. Tilak.
Tilak was a Hindu and came to receive Jesus as his Lord and Savior. As a devout follower of Jesus he wrote many beautiful poems and hymns about the wonder of life in Jesus and how it transforms a person. He became an evangelist and a teacher and revered in his culture.
Unfortunately, in his day those who became Christians were immediately identified with the British, and it was assumed were no longer nationalists. And converts were encouraged to separate themselves from their Hindu brethren. Tilak did not believe either of these was right.
He worked tirelessly to show that you can follow Jesus, and still be part of society and be supportive of your country. Through his writings and his life and ministry to the poor he became revered in India, and to this day is written about in some school textbooks – as a recognized Christian. A true testimony to Jesus in India.
Tilak’s deep desire to separate following Jesus from the trappings of wrong assumptions lead him to examine what baptism communicated in his day. This outward act was interpreted as a clear indicator that you renounced India as your country and your connection to Indian culture. It was divisive and became a huge barrier to his fellow Hindus coming to Jesus. This led him to start “The Brotherhood of Baptized and Unbaptized Disciples of Jesus”. A work he never was able to complete, but showed his innovative mind and passion to overcome wrong societal thinking.
In many ways “Christianity” is a label and can be a barrier to Jesus. Let’s separate being a follower of the person of Jesus Christ from the trappings of politics, being a “Christian”, and going to church every week.
In your journey with Jesus, how has he showed you who HE is. What has HE showed you – personally – about what it means to obey him? And how do you communicate that to those around you? How do you meet people where they are at? Walk in their shoes? And communicate the person of Jesus, his love, patience, compassion, and power to save?
Jesus is radical. Let’s make him known and not put him in a box.