Only the Bible describes God that dies for man. God undergoes an unfair and brutal death to free man from sin and death. “By oppression and judgment he was taken away” (Isaiah 53:8a ESV) and “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isaiah 52:14 ESV). When we see God who sacrifices himself so that we may be saved from our sins and death we understand that the life of every person is very precious.
After going through such a horrifying process to save us, God could force us to follow Him. Instead he says “I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ISV) “My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me” (John 10:27). When we see God who does not bully or compel, we understand the value of human freedom.
Sadly many do not understand the infinite value of a human being over any other creature. Many do not understand the value that God places on their life. Growing up in a country where animals are worshipped and given undue respect, many have lost respect for human life. Often cows get too much respect and people get killed for transporting them but basic needs of a human like food and water get withheld just because they get labelled as inferior. People are sometimes not free to even choose their religion or a spouse.
Sadly many Christians are not much better than their neighbours and have not understood the value and freedom that God has given man. The Church has not always been able to rise above the wrong values of the society. Even as Jesus said “I do not call you servants anymore” (John 15:15 ISV), we should treat one another with love, respect and with freedom. When India sees the Church implementing this, especially in the rural areas, I believe their eyes will be opened and they will run to the church. They will then demand such respect from the political leaders and government officials and we will have a transformed India.
In this season, may we understand the value of man which made necessary the death and resurrection of our God and be transformed and then transform our society.
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” Isaiah 9:2 (KJV)
Other than the Jews, no other society knew about the true living God. But after Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection, the light started shining upon the people all over the world. It is believed that Thomas the apostle of Jesus came to India and was martyred here. Although different people continued bringing the gospel to India, the pace picked up after 1500 as trade between Europe and India picked up. Due to the external influence, it was generally considered as a foreign religion. But even after the foreigners left after independence, the light of Christianity continues to illuminate Indian’s hearts, transform lives and cause us to believe on the Lord Jesus. The darkness opposes the light and many are persecuted, even in this season when there are many who want to stop Christians celebrating Christmas. But “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (ESV).
Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” So let us not be fearful of the darkness that tries to overcome us. Even as the light of Jesus is shining across India and over the world, “let’s therefore put aside the actions of darkness and put on the armour of light” Romans 13:12b (ISV) and “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, and do not obey your flesh and its desire”Romans 13:14 (ISV).
I wish all my readers a Christmas filled with the light of Christ. Just as the moon lights up the night by reflecting the light of the sun, may we be a light to the dark world by reflecting the light of Jesus.
South India has a bull taming sport called jallikattu in which a bull is released into a crowd of people and one or more person try to hold onto the hump of the bull while the bull tries to escape. In 2014 the Supreme Court of India banned this sport as it was cruel to the bull. The bull tamers and spectators regularly get killed. Strangely people all over Tamil Nadu have been demanding the ban be lifted, risking human life and continue the cruelty to animals. Although most city residents have not watched the sport yet thousands have been protesting that the ban be removed.
The situation reminds me of the riot in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19. Paul had been ministering in Ephesus for two years and “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul”. But Demetrius who made silver shrines incited people saying “Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods …” Immediately there was a great riot and “some were shouting one thing and some another, since the crowd was confused, and most of them didn’t know why they were meeting.”
Although the history of jallikattu is skimpy, it appears that the shedding of blood during this sport was a form of blood sacrifice to appease the local deities during the Pongal harvest festival. Looking at it from this angle, there seems to be a good explanation why people who have no connection with this sport, have been taking to the streets for days and nights to keep it alive. It appears that evil spiritual forces are unhappy with the ban and have whipped up frenzy in the minds of the people to ensure that blood continues being spilt every year.
Ancient Rome had extremely violent games where gladiator fought against others or against animals or against slaves, wild animals including lions and bears fighting other animals or mauling slaves. Christianity slowly brought an end to these violent sports. In the 5th century, monk Telemachus when he witnessed the gladiators for the first time was so appalled that he jumped into the arena shouting “In the name of Jesus stop”. Though he was killed, the incident shocked the spectators and the emperor who immediately issued an edict banning gladiator sports. Let us not loose our saltiness in Christ and be “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people.” (Matthew 5:13) Let us be the salt and light of our world.
God consistently shows His concern for the poor in the Bible and ask us to be considerate to them. Jesus showed his concern for the poor in his message in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” Thousands of years ago, the Bible set strict rules for lending and stricter rules if the borrower is poor. “When you loan something to your neighbor, don’t enter his house to seize what he offered as collateral … If he is a poor man, don’t go to sleep with his collateral in your possession. Be sure to return his garment to him at sunset so that he may sleep with it, and he will bless you. It will be a righteous deed in the presence of the LORD your God.” Deuteronomy 24:10, 12, 13 (ISV) .
Still the poor are often abused and exploited. There is a crisis in India for a few weeks. Overnight, the majority of the currency notes have been made obsolete and people are facing difficulty in converting their own money into valid but difficult to find currency notes. People have died in the crisis and the poor who have limited access to banks have been put into a great predicament. The government claims that it has to restrict their citizens from withdrawing their own money for their own good and most people seem to be infatuated that this move will somehow stop “black money”. Very few seem to bother about the hardship that many are facing. Farmers are unable to sell the produce or buy seed, poor people especially those who live in remote areas cannot repeatedly leave their work and families in search of a working ATM or bank, those who need medical help do not have the “right” notes to pay. The list is endless.
Among the people that I have personally communicated about this difficult situation, those voicing concern for the genuinely disadvantaged are generally Christians. It is encouraging to see that the message of the Bible has touched these people. Some of the verses protecting the poor and oppressed are “don’t take advantage of a hired person who is poor and needy” Deuteronomy 24:14 (ISV), “defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy” Psalm 82:3 (KJV) and “oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor” Zechariah 7:10a (KJV). I hope the Bible will transform you and give you concern for the poor, the needy and the afflicted.
Although I went to the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship from childhood, I gradually began to realise there were spiritual problems in the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship and with Joshua Daniel himself. It was almost impossible to find critical information on LEF but later I came across references to a book which I then purchased and have been reading. I want to introduce to our readers the book “Christian Gurus”: A Study of the Life and Work of Christian Charismatic Leaders in South India by Dr. Werner Hoerschelmann. I have already quoted from it and some readers are earnestly waiting for more from this book! The author was a pastor for the German speaking congregations in South India and Sri Lanka and a part time lecturer at the United Theological College in Bangalore from 1969 to 1974. During his stay in South India, he came across 40 German speaking followers of a “Christian Guru” (Lawrie) which included a German who had deserted her husband and child and refused to return. Realising that this was not an isolated case, he researched the phenomenon and wrote this book. Indians seem to be so used to Gurus that Westerners seem to be more alert to such deviations. I believe that we can learn a lot from this book and so I wish to share thoughts and excerpts from this book. It was published in German in 1977 and an abridged English version was published in 1998 by Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Institute. If you find this useful please purchase the book from the publisher.
The author has coined the term “Christian Guru” in order to define the phenomenon of charismatic leaders of independent, indigenous Christian groups in South India. He explains the environment from which this phenomenon has evolved comparing and contrasting India’s social and religious context, analysing Church history in the sub-continent especially the Pentecostals and using examples of Indian (non-Christian) charismatic personalities. Then 20 Christian leaders including Joshua Daniel are described with reference to a predefined outline. After that the author tries to systematise this phenomenon, compares the “Christian guru” with Hindu charismatic personalities and evaluates this phenomenon. The actual and possible impact of this phenomenon on the Church and society is described. Finally a conclusion is given along with some open questions.
Respectable members and senior elders in the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship claim that Christians expressing anger, pride and other common sinful behaviour are demon possessed. Attributing sinful behaviour to demon possession seems to be quite prevalent in South Indian Churches but is this really correct?
When Cain was angry with his brother, God himself warned Cain saying “If you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:7 (AMP). Again Ephesians 4:26 says “Be ye angry, and sin not”. Proverbs 21:4 says “a proud heart … is sin”. I John 1:17 says “All unrighteousness is sin“. The problem behind anger, pride and other similar issues is sin.
The Bible does not attribute wrong behaviour to demons. Jesus cast out unclean spirits but never told anyone a specific behaviour that resulted in possession. The epistles teaches us a lot about sin and Christ’s solution to sin but evil spirits seem to be ignored. Sadly some Christians, including members of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship, attribute sinful behaviour to demon possession. So their solution to a sin problem is getting the demons cast out and for that you need their services! Although any Christian can cast out a demon in the name of Jesus Christ, people generally go to somebody experienced in this area. So you have to travel long distances searching for your deliverer. Some will be classified as hard cases and that only gifted individuals can handle them. Sometimes this gifted individual would have already gone to heaven and you will have to go round to a bunch of less gifted people hoping that one day your relief will come!