- How can I love my enemies?
- Can I drink a little in parties?
- Can Christians eat what's offered to idols?
- Can believers watch movies?
- Are sports and games a waste of time?
- Is saluting the National Flag unscriptural?
- Vote for whom?
- Can Christians buy lottery tickets?
- What about Capitation Fee?
- Is it wrong to visit graves?
- Should we Indianize Christmas celebration?
1. How can I love my enemies?
Enemies for a Christian are essentially those who are the enemies of the Cross and
so those who oppose the Christian witness and the preaching of the Gospel (Mt 5:44).
Occasionally there could also be some who, because of their differing tastes and temperaments,
would hate you for what you do and how you do it. Sometimes it become really impossible to
get along with such folks. That's why the Bible admonishes, "If it is possible, as much as
depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Rom 12:18).
I have found the following guidelines helpful to improve my relationship with those
who oppose, contradict or hate me
First, meditate on God's love on them too! "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on
the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Mt 5:45). Each person is precious
to God. Christ died for every man and woman, good or bad, so called.
Secondly, remind yourself of how patient God has been towards you! He has not given
up on us though we have failed or disappointed Him so often. Because He is abundant
in mercies He expects us to forgive othersnot less than seven times seventy! (Mt 18:22).
Thirdly, pray for your enemies (Mt 5:44). Love grows in the soil of prayer. It always
becomes easy to love or forgive someone who hates us when we start praying for that
individual. Confess to God your inability to love and
He will pour out His love into your heart through His Spirit and enable you to do what otherwise you cannot.
God does not allow us to curse even the devil (Jude 9). Guard your tongue lest you
abuse someone. Let not bitterness ever take roots in your heart. If defiles you and others as
well (Heb 12:14,15). Vengeance is the Lord's. Don't take that weapon in your hand. You
will perish in that process (Mt 26:52). Look for opportunities to do some good to the one who
has hurt you. You will be an overcomer (Rom 12:19-21).
"When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with
him" (Prov 16:7).
2. Can I drink a little in parties?
Obviously you have in mind Ephesians 5:18 wherefrom one can perhaps infer that
excessive drinking is prohibited!
Let me begin with a few Bible verses about liquor. "Wine is a mocker, intoxicating
drink arouses brawling and whoever is led astray by it is not wise" (Prov 20:1). "Do not look on
the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the
last it bites like a snake, and stings like a viper" (Prov 23:31,32).
It's true wine is served alongwith regular meals in certain countries. But we also
know where it has led to. In most of the cases it is occasional drinking that has led to
addiction. Here is Paul's doctrine: "I am allowed to anything but not everything is good for me.
Even though I am allowed to do anything, I must not become a slave to anything" (1 Cor
We are to avoid even the very form or any appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22). Beware
of dangerous beginnings! First it will be just "walking" there, then it will be "standing" there
a while, and finally you will be "sitting" there! (Psa 1:1).
We must be like Timothy. He abstained from wine totally, so much so Paul had to ask
him add a little wine for his illness (1 Tim 5:23).
Another question can be, "Can I smoke occasionally?" The answer is the same.
Don't! Every cigarette pack contains the statutory warning: Smoking is injurious to health.
Smoking and drinking injure us and others as well. These are both social and spiritual evils.
Steer clear of them!
3. Can Christians eat what's offered to idols?
Over 80% of Indians worship idols. Christians are hardly 3% in this country. We
are constantly challenged to befriend the non-Christians, especially the Hindus who are
the largest segment of our society, in order to share the message of the love of God with
them. When invited they gladly join us for our birthday parties and
Christmas dinners. They have no problem in eating the food we serve after offering thanksgiving prayer. But when
they invite us to their festival dinners or send us pongal or sweets, we hesitate and they are offended. Relationships get strained. Some believers eat anything freely,
whereas others are apprehensive. What does the Bible say about
Conditions similar to ours existed when the New Testament epistles were written.
Eating food offered to idols was one of the hot issues apostle Paul addressed while writing to
the young Churches. In his first Corinthian Epistle he discussed this issue at length in
two chapters, 8 and 10. Read them carefully. Here is what we learn
- Strictly speaking, idols are "nothing" (8:4; Isa 37:19; Jer 16:20; Gal 4:8). As such
any food offered to them cannot be desecrated. However, for the idol-worshipper it
symbolizes something supernatural. Commenting on their point of view Paul calls idols as
"demons" (10:20). This figure is in their mind. According to the idol-worshipper the food
becomes sacred when offered to idols. No Christian can accept food from an idol-worshipper if it
is given in this sense or with this understanding (10:20,21,27). We can politely refuse it with
a smile. If they still insist, we can receive it but later quietly give it away to a foodless
platform-dweller or a beggar.
- The apostle mentions three places where food offered to idols will be served(a)
temples (b) houses (c) marketplaces. A Christian under no circumstance can join a dinner inside
"an idol's temple" (8:10). This public act will dishonour Christ and discourage new
who have denounced idols to serve the living God. But when invited to a family dinner of
an idol-worshipper we can go and eat "asking no question" (10: 27). No true friend will try
to trap us like Balaam or Jezebel (Rev 2:14,20). Next comes what is sold in shops.
Muslims chant a prayer before butchering animals. Hindus place sweets and savouries in front
of pictures of gods and goddesses immediately after making them in restaurants or stalls.
We need not bother about these things but can freely buy and "eat whatever is
sold... asking no questions" because the earth and all its fullness belong to our
Lord! (10:25,26). All animals and birds and plants and trees belong originally to the Lord and they are for us to
enjoy because we belong to Him! Everything is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer
of thanksgiving (1 Tim 4:4,5).
- The underlying principle that Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 8 & 10 as well as
Romans 14 is that no knowledge of the truth or liberty in Christ should be used to "wound the
weak conscience" of our brothers and sisters or to "become a stumbling block" to them (1
Cor 8:9,12). While there is nothing wrong, in the absolute sense, in eating whatever is served
to us, it is sin if our eating makes a brother "stumble" or "perish" (1 Cor 8:13,11). Nothing
we do must offend others (1 Cor 10:24,32,33; Rom 14:14,15,21).
To summarise: Don't compromise on the truth; Don't antagonize idol-worshipping
friends; Don't despise weak believers. 1 Corinthians 10:32 can be paraphrased as, "Give no
offense, either to the nominal Christians or to the non-Christians or to the born-again
4. Can believers watch movies?
A decade ago the question was, "Can Christians go to cine theatres?" The answer
from adult Christians and preachers was a stern "no" and the most powerful Biblical quote
was Psalm 1:1. The argument was how could God's people be seated in "the seat of the
scornful?" The situation has totally changed today. You don't need to "go" to theatres to watch
movies. The theatre has "come" to our living rooms. The television explosion has changed the
I was brought up in a home where going to cine theatres was considered an awful
sin. Cinema was called "sin-ma," the mother of all sins, by our Church leaders. However,
my younger brother and I used to bother mummy to let us watch atleast one film per year.
She would reluctantly concede to it and give us just four annas (25 paise) for a floor ticket.
When we returned home, she would narrate how she had been on her knees during those three
or four hours praying with tears that our minds should not be corrupted by obscenity. As
I look back I don't regret such strictness in our
If born-again youngsters would positively decide that they would never watch
any commercial and secular movie, it is still good. They will not lose anything in life. At the
same time, outrightly condemning all movies as bad is not right. There are films which
convey forceful messages on moral, ethical, social, political and cultural issues. Such films
educate our minds and challenge our thinking. Meaningless traditions and empty rituals are
shattered in these stories. A few film directors are committed to restore age-old family values
and uphold time-honoured principles. The Christian movie "Joni" and secular movies like "Mayuri" inspire the invalid and the disabled not to give up. It is welcome that teachers take
their students to watch such films.
In the developed nations there are organisations which publish
film guides in which
each new film is reviewed objectively. Depending upon the doses of violence, crime, sex,
etc, these reviewers give their recommendations or otherwise for various age groups. Parents
go through these notes and discuss and decide with their children whether they can watch
a particular movie or not. This practice is not much in vogue in India. Therefore
youngsters must be extremely cautious in their choice. If they do want this sort of entertainment,
they must wait for sometime after the release of a film to gather informations to find out if the
film would do them any good. Don't go by the wall-posters and
TV advertisements alone. These are your formative years. Anything will grow in the virgin soil of your heart. Weeding is
not easy. Go slow. Your thoughts and judgments are now emotionally charged.
Discernment comes by growth and maturity (Heb 5:14).
We must also look into the aspect of priority. In these days of unprecedented
academic competition, when students don't even have time for evening games, how can they
waste precious hours before the TV? Working people complain of not having sufficient time
for waiting before God, reading His Word and going out to witness for Him. Then where is
the time for movies? Stewardship of time is a decisive factor in Christian discipleship.
The question concerning movies is one of those which cannot be given simple yes or
no answers. However the overarching Biblical principle is: "Test everything. Hold on to
the good. Avoid every kind of evil. May God Himself... sanctify you through and through"
(1 Thess 5:21-23).
5. Are sports and games a waste of time?
This question is repeatedly asked when we work among students. Some youngsters
when they get saved start spending their evenings and all leisure time in prayers, Bible
study groups and such spiritual activities. A few others find it difficult to leave sports and
games. In course of time the second groupists develop a guilt because they begin to wonder
whether the time they spend for sports instead of the soul is a waste. Is there a Biblical answer to
Though the Bible does not directly encourage sports and games, it nowhere condemns
it. The knowledge of the public games of Greece and Rome provided the New Testament
writers with rich source material from which to illustrate spiritual truths. Paul alluded to
wrestling, boxing, running, etc. (Eph 6:12; 1 Tim
6:12; 2 Tim 4:7; 1 Cor 9:24-27). The other
apostles have also employed sports language (1 Pet
1:4; Heb 12:1,2; Js 1:12). Moses must have been a good boxer (Ex 2:11,12). He was also an expert in mountaineering. David was skilled
in shooting. As a shepherd boy he must have practised catapulting (1
Sports and games have many positive effects on the participants. A good sportsman
is known for the discipline of his body, that is so vital to Christian life (1 Cor 9:24-27).
Then there's obeying of the rules. In Christian ministry also, it is not "what" but "how" that
matters (2 Tim 2:5; cf 1 Cor 3:10). Nowhere else do we learn the importance of team spirit than
in games. How sadly we lack this in Christian circles! Perseverance is another
character developed in the field of sports (Heb
12:1,2; Acts 20:24). Sportspersons aim for the
medal. They won't settle for anything less. Because this spirit is missing in the Church, very
few Christians do their "utmost for the
Churches and ministries must motivate their young people to participate in
sports and games. I always believe that a Spirit-filled doctor will be a better
doctor; a Spirit-filled architect
will be a better architect; so also a Spirit-filled player will be a better player. Did not
Prophet Elijah run faster than the chariot of King Ahab when the hand of the Lord came on
him? (1 Ki 18:44-46). Did not Evangelist Philip overtake the fast Ethiopian chariot when the
Spirit propelled him? (Acts 8:29,30). It was like a cross-country race! With the favour of the
Almighty God on them, Christian athletes can be "ten times
better" than their non-Christian counterparts (Dan 1:20). Why not? (Rom 9:16). David boasted, "By my God I can leap over
a wall" (Psa 18:29). High-jumpers and pole-vaulters, please
For the last many years India has not been bringing much from the Olympics. Just
a bronze medal or a silver medal for our big nation has not removed the shame. Will the
Indian Christian young people accept the challenge to turn away this reproach? Who else
can? When Christian players testify to their faith, it has a convincing appeal to the
How shamefully some of our top cricket players behave! Only those who are dead
to covetousness and corruption can restore dignity to this game in India. Will Christians
take up this challenge?
In these days of stiff academic competition, parents tend to discourage their
children from all extra-curricular activities. This is bound to affect their wholesome growth.
Jesus grew not only in "wisdom" but also in "stature" (Lk 2:52). If youthful energy is not
channelled into profitable activities, it will flow into sinful avenues. As a student I took active part
in Literature & Debate Society, National Cadet Corps, Scouts, Drama, etc. None of these
things went useless in my ministerial and leadership respon-sibilities. But I was too
concerned about my academic excellence to spend enough time in the playground. Until this day I
have not even learnt swimming!
I advise young people to maintain a balance. There's a time to study and a time to
relax; a time to pray and a time to play. Don't neglect or overdo any one thing. All the best!
6. Is saluting the National Flag unscriptural?
A controversy arose some years ago when a group of Indian
Christians refused to salute the national flag. It was then cleared by the Church that the group in question was a
cult and it did not represent the mainstream Christianity. However, there are some
sincere Christians who keep wondering whether saluting the national flag is not amounting to
The word "salute" simply means "to greet with respect." In India we greet one another
with bowed heads or folded hands. These postures vary according to cultures. This is not
worship. Apostle Peter rebuked Cornelius because the latter exceeded the level of greeting and
literally "worshipped" Peter (Acts 10:25,26). What the three
Hebrew young men sternly refused was the "worship" of the gold
"image" set by the King (Dan 3).
Christians may not be nationalistic but they must be patriotic. The Bible has nothing
to say against patriotism, which means love and dedication to one's country. Apostle Paul
was proud of his Roman citizenship even though the Roman empire was pagan (Acts 22:
25-29). The Jews became homesick when they were scattered all over the world. Read Psalm 137
to understand how much a Jew loved his homeland. Jerusalem was his "chief joy" and as
dear as his "right hand" (vv 5,6). Our ultimate citizenship in Heaven does not negate our
present citizenship on earth. Otherwise we would need to go "out of the world!" (1 Cor 5:10). The
represents the nation. When we salute the flag, we publicly declare our love and respect
for the country.
In the Western world there's a custom of keeping the national flag inside the
Church buildings. This is perfectly in order. Are not all
governing authorities from God? (Rom 13:1). Why should we not hoist our national flag atop our Church steeples or inside
Church compounds, atleast on the Independence Day and the Republic
Day? We can have special programmes and prayers for the nation right inside the Church. This will serve as an
occasion to renew our commitment to obey the laws of the nation and be faithful citizens. If we
have spiritual retreats or camps during these two important days, which are public holidays,
we may begin the programme with flag-hoisting, praying for the nation and singing of the
Praise God for the organizations which organize fasting prayers on Independence
Days and Republic Days in strategic cities of India to pray for a nationwide revival
and evangelism. According to Paul, this must be our supreme prayer concern (1 Tim 2:1,2).
On the 15th day of August 2012 we have entered the 65th year of Indian
Independence. Hallelujah! India is the most religious country in the world. This country is unique in
many ways. No other nation is so diversified in its languages and cultures. Let's look at the
huge population of our country as masses of potential candidates to be reached for the
Kingdom of God. Mr. Emil Jebasingh of Transworld Radio rightly composed a stanza in one of
his Tamil songs that Indians would fill Heaven! True our nation is full of
corruption and confusion. But is there a nation free from these? Let's develop a positive attitude towards India.
Look forward to the next flag-hoisting ceremony with enthusiasm. Our national flag
is simple yet attractive. To guard ourselves from the disrespect that comes from ignorance,
an understanding of the symbolism would be helpful. The deep saffron colour at the top
speaks of valour and sacrifice. White stands for truth,
purity and simplicity. The green represents our fertile land with vast natural resources. The chakra (wheel) with 24 spokes signifies motion, progress and dynamism. As you salute the flag, rededicate yourself to these
lofty values so the nation may be blessed and God glorified!
7. Vote for whom?
Every Christian must be patriotic. We can't afford to be indifferent to what's happening
in the political front. Shed the "let-anyone-rule" attitude. Catch the Esther spirit"How
can I endure to see the evil that will come on my people?" (Esth
Our first responsibility is PRAYER. There are unseen powers behind political
leadership. The present crises in the country are a spiritual warfare. Apostle Paul urges us, "Therefore
I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made
for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a
quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence" (1
Pray for all the candidates in the fray. Ask God to touch the nation's millions of
voters. Make your prayers specific by focussing on the following
Righteousness: We must have leaders who are free from corruption and selfish
interests. They must be men of sincerity and integrity. This may look too ideal to expect in politics.
But God's Word emphatically declares, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a shame to
any people" (Prov 14:34). There's no other way.
Secularism: Our constitution provides freedom of religion, to practise and propagate
one's faith. But there is a steady erosion of secular values in the Nation. It's impossible to be
a Christian without obeying the Great Commission of Christ: "Go and make disciples of all
the nations, baptising them... teaching them" (Mt 28:19,20).
Uplift of the Poor: Political instability affects the Nation's economic development.
The multitudes under the poverty line keep swelling. Their cry goes unheard. God blesses
a government which has pity on the poor (Prov 19:17).
National Integration: Jesus said, "If a kingdom is divided against itself, that
kingdom cannot stand" (Mk 3:24). Instead of fighting the cranker of communalism, some
politicians are actually flaming communal passion. By hook or crook they want to seize and
sustain power. Animosity between the South and the North is growing. The message of Christmas
is "good will toward men!" (Lk 2:14). May God give us leaders who will hold the country
together. We have had enough of murder and mayhem.
Social Reforms: Our Nation is plagued by social evils like untouchability, child
marriage, dowry system, sati, devadasi system and scores of others. We need leaders bold like a lion
to crusade against such inhuman practices and lead people out of darkness. Leaders must
not sacrifice principles for the lure of office and lucre.
These are some of the basic expectations if a nation is to prosper. Besides these,
add whatever comes to your mind to the prayer list and intercede regularly before God.
Organize fasting prayers. The Lord is on the Throne!
Pray for the Election Commissioner and all the officials in the election machinery.
Pray against rigging, booth-capturing and such malpractices. Pray for a fair and free poll.
Prayer alone is not sufficient. Faith without works is dead. Study the election manifesto
of each party. Discuss with responsible and mature elders. Avoid arguments. Don't
be pressurised by anyone or carried away by the heady, extravagant and high-sounding
promises of irresponsible politicians. You are an individual with rights and responsibilities.
Think, pray and exercise your franchise.
8. Can Christians buy lottery tickets?
Lottery is nothing but gambling. The State-run raffles are simply official gambling.
Our Governments don't have absolutes in their moral standards. One government closes
the liquor shops and the next government opens them by its "honourable" ministers!
From an Editorial in Moody Monthly I read, "Gambling violates the Christian concept
of providence. It's no coincidence that gamblers are notoriously superstitious. Having lost
sight of the sovereignty of God, they grope for any method, no matter how dubious, to
manipulate the forces of fate."
Lotteries appeal to greed. The Bible sternly warns us against get-rich-quick
philosophy. "An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning will not be blessed at the end" (Prov
20:21). "A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not
go unpunished" (Prov 28:20). These statements are proved again and again in the lives of
most of the lottery prize winners who have only become more miserable (1 Tim 6:9,10). But
when God makes one rich, He adds no sorrow!
Beware of the beginnings! Lottery players usually begin with one or two tickets.
Suppose they get a small prize of 100 or 1000 rupees, they are irresistably tempted to buy
tickets. Oh how many families are denied bread because the husbands and fathers
are addicted to lottery! Money is like sea water which never quenches one's thirst but
only increases it.
Lotteries make a handful of millionaries by stealing from millions. Most of the
lottery players belong to the middle and lower income groups. Can we anger the God of the
poor? (Prov 22:16). Lotteries are also used by the rich to turn their black money into white.
Some Christians justify lottery by saying that they would give 50% to God if they
won! Beloved, God abhors unclean money. Preachers and pastors should politely refuse
offerings from lottery prizes.
If you are not able to make both ends meet, seek to do some extra work to
supplement your income. Streamline your budget. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His
righteousness. Ask God for daily bread and ask Him to bless it. "Godliness with contentment is great
gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (1 Tim 6:6-8).
9. What about Capitation Fee?
The Supreme Court of India recently ruled that "it is not permissible in law for
any educational institution to charge capitation fee as a consideration for admission to the
said institution." The Bench pointed out that "the capitation fee brings to the fore a clear
class basis. It enables the rich to take admissions whereas the poor has to withdraw due
to financial inability. A poor student with better merit cannot get admission because he has
no money whereas the rich can purchase the admission. Such a treatment is
patently unreasonable, unfair and unfit." The Bench calls this "an evil practice" whatever name
one might give to this type of extraction of money. Even if a few State governments may
allow their self-financing colleges to collect capitation fee, Christians must take a bold stand
against this "legalised bribery."
Parents who admit their sons and daughters in professional colleges by paying
huge sums of money actually destroy the moral values of their children. These youngsters
will grow with the worldly philosophy, "Money makes many things." But the Biblical teaching
is that promotion comes from God. The anger of the God of the poor is aroused when
injustice is done to the poor but meritorious students by the capitation fee system.
The capitation fee system leads to other evils. One of them is the practice of following
up the examiners with "gifts" if a student has not fared well in a subject. Here again there
are rates. And having spent lakhs of rupees, parents try to make it good in the marriage
market through dowry. Most of the money in these transactions is black.
What is grabbed by money will have to be guarded by money only. Jehovah is a God
of justice and He cannot endorse gains made by false and dishonest methods. Your son
or daughter may earn a degree and secure a job. But where is "God's" blessing? Do you
know God refused to include Ishmael in His redemptive line whom Abraham had brought forth
by his own strength?
When the capitation fee candidates become doctors or engineers, I shudder to think of
the patients they would treat and the buildings they would construct!
I come from a poor family. Though I passed my Pre-University Class in first class, I
wanted to join only a Polytechnic course because my parents could not
afford to send me to an
Engineering College. But the Principal of the Polytechnic refused to give me an
application form but urged me to apply for the Engineering degree course. I applied and the Lord
granted me a seat in the Engineering College in Karaikudi. After graduation, daddy wanted me
to take up a job immediately to relieve the financial burden of the family. But I had a desire
to go for postgraduate studies and so I applied to three institutions of national repute:
Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai; Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; and College
of Engineering, Guindy, Chennai. Without any human influence, I was selected for all
the three! I remembered Matthew 6:33, "All these things shall be
ADDED to you." Recalling the past, I can boldly testify that the blessing in my academic career was neither by money
nor by influence but by God's grace.
Parents should not think that their children have lost the best in life if they failed
to secure a seat in a professional college. God has a unique plan for each of His
children and that's best for them. I sincerely recommend to all parents and children to say no
to the worldly ways, and give God an opportunity to show His strength on their behalf
(2 Chron 16:9).
10. Is it wrong to visit graves?
Some Christians visit the graves of their dear ones on their death anniversaries or
on special occasions to pay their homage. Others don't turn that side once the
burial is over. To support their viewpoint they quote the words of the angels who were standing at
the open tomb of Jesus, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but
is risen!" (Lk 24:5,6). But I wonder why
several people belonging to the second category
travel all the way to Palestine to see the Empty Tomb! Atleast Mary Magdalene and others had
not known that Jesus had risen. But why oh why more than 2000 years after His
resurrection folks still want to visit that Tomb? There is yet another funny thing: There's more than
one tomb claimed to be that of Jesus! No one knows for sure which one was really occupied
by His body!
The Bible has nothing to say against visiting a tomb in memory of the dead. In his
sermon on the Day of Pentecost, Peter while talking about David said, "His tomb is with us to
this day" (Acts 2:29). This obviously meant that they had been maintaining the tomb of David
as a memorial. Whitewashing the tombstone was an annual routine (Mt 23:27). It was
an accepted Jewish custom to visit tombs with spices for the bodies (Lk 24:1). In India we
take flowers or incense sticks. If it is wrong to visit a grave, why should we build a structure at
all over the pit?
My daddy is buried in our native town Nazareth in southern Tamilnadu. Mummy is
buried in Vellore where we live from 1971. I visit
mummy's grave once or twice every year and daddy's whenever I go to Nazareth. No doubt my eyes become full when I stand before
these graves, but the tears are mostly an offering of gratitude to God for what my parents
had meant to me and my younger brother (Jn 11:31,35,36). I think of the values they had
taught us and rededicate myself to practise them. I also pray that God would raise many
such parents who would give away their firstborn for the Kingdom sake. Just like the
material substance of bread and wine enables us to "remember" the Lord in a special way, visits
to graves inspire us. Whenever I visit these
cemeteries I also spend a few minutes before the tombs of great
missionaries and notable saints who sleep there. Whenever I visit
mummy's tomb, I do spend a few minutes before the tomb of that
unforgettable missionary Dr. Ida Scudder
(1870-1959) who founded the Christian Medical College in Vellore. Of the places
I visited in England what remains fresh in my mind is the grave of John Bunyan and that
John Wesley. What an inspiration! My visit to William Carey's grave in Calcutta is
always green in my mind.
There are certain things we must not do while visiting
graves:oWe cannot pray for the dead. "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Heb 9:27). There's
no second chance. Baptism for the dead was a non-apostolic practice, simply quoted by Paul
to make his point (1 Cor 15:29). oWe should not pray to the dead also. The Bible
strongly condemns any attempt to communicate with the dead. "Should they seek the dead on
behalf of the living?" (Isa 8:19c). o Having sentimentality is not wrong, but ascribing sanctity
to the place of burial will lead to idolatrous practices. A dead man revived when his
body touched the bones of Prophet Elisha (2 Ki 13:21). But in the case of Moses the greatest of
all prophets, God buried his body in a place known to none. "No one knows his grave to
this day" (Dt 34:5,6,10,11). Rare incidents do not teach anything normative.
When the Church of England slammed its door against John Wesley, he preached
from his father's tomb. God has used funeral sermons to break the hardest of hearts.
It was only a pagan belief that tombs were haunts for evil spirits. Both Gergesenes
and Gadarenes were "Gentile" cities (Mt 8:28; Mk 5:1). One need not be afraid to visit
cemeteries anytime, day or night.
11. Should we Indianize Christmas celebration?
Christianity in India is still thought to be the religion of the white man. This idea
gets strengthened especially during Christmastime when our
non-Christian friends observe how we celebrate the Birth of Christ.
Christ was not born in the East or the West but in the Middle East. Announcing the
birth of the Son of God the Angel told the shepherds that it was good tidings of great joy to
"ALL people"not just to the Jewish or any particular community (Lk 2:10).
Britishers were not the first to bring the Gospel to India. It was Thomas, one of the
twelve disciples of Jesus, who came to India in the very first century with the message of
Jesus Christ. Christianity is thus over 2000 years old in our country. It's a crime if we the
Indian Christians still wrap the message of Christ in the Western jacket. The gospel of Christ
is transcultural. Here are some tips to celebrate Christmas the Indian way.
Carol rounds is the longest prelude to Christmas. Why go to Christian homes year
after year to tell them what they already know? Why not plan carols in vernaculars to
non-Christian homes in the neighbourhood? Carols have degenerated to dignified
begging! It has become a collection campaign. To me carol rounds is nothing more than sleepy
Christians disturbing sleeping Christians. Practise songs set to Indian music. Let the words be
simple and clear. Present each of the non-Christian families you visit with a
Christmas-message greeting card or a New Testament.
Send Christmas cards to as many "non-Christian" friends as possible. Avoid
sending cards with Western trees, leaves and scenery. For
example, what's the meaning of a snow deer picture card in
India? I call upon Christian artists to design Christmas cards
with Indian cultural settings in mind. Instead of a candle you can draw a lampstand (kuthuvizhakku) which is more Indian. It will be appealing if the greetings can be in vernaculars.
We can bring about a change in Christmas decorations also. Instead of using
or pine leaves, we can go in for mango leaves which are typically Indian. Don't tell me
that mango leaves are associated with Hindu festivals. Do you know that several things
associated with the Western style of Christmas celebrations have a pagan originlike the very date
of December 25, Santa Claus, Christmas tree, etc.?
Include non-Christian children in Christmas plays. Don't leave them out for
Christmas tree functions. The angel need not be fair in complexion. He can be in Asian brown
or African black. Why not?
Sit with your pastors and elders to plan a special
Christmas service for non-Christians. Get the choir practise bhajan songs on the birth of Christ rather than hymns. Let
each Christian bring atleast one non-Christian to this service. Before, during and after the
service in the Church premises the Christians must behave as hosts for the non-Christian
guests. As far as possible remove your shoes when you enter the Church. Indian
non-Christians cannot think of walking into a place of worship with sandals on. (Hanging of
stockings overhead with gifts inside is totally unacceptable to
the Indian mind!!!) Stay sensitive culturally.
Invite non-Christian neighbours to your Christmas dinner. In certain areas
Christians are known as those who eat pork, drink and
dance! Let's repent of revels which have brought a reproach on the name of Christ. Feed the poor who cannot repay you.
Apostle Paul liberated the Gospel from Jewish clothing. Martin Luther liberated it
from Latin clothing. It's our responsibility to liberate it from Western clothing.
Some of what I've written here may be objectionable to many. But
missionary-minded Christians will agree with me that unless such radical changes are effected in our
personal and corporate lifestyle, we will not leave an impact on the non-Christian masses even if
we are given another two thousand years.
(Read also Question, "Is it right to celebrate Christmas?")