Imitating Jesus: A Dangerously Tough Love

Christian revolution Should a Christian take the social causes? If he should take the social causes, how should he take it up? Should he or should he not criticize the religious and social instutituions  without mincing words? If he criticizes, does that mean he does not love the enemies? How should one love the enemies then? Jerry Thomas looks at the life and words of LORD Jesus Christ as recorded in the Biblical Gospels to answer these questions.


Christians should take up the cause of the oppressed (particularly Dalits in the Indian context), poor and widow of the society. Unfortunately many Christians have become so ‘other-worldly’ that anything to do this ‘world’ is totally unpalatable for them. They believe that they can preach the Gospel without critiquing the erroneous value system and the ideologies behind it. They would have no criticisms of current society, leave alone criticizing the false religions. If at all they criticize they will ensure that it offends no one.

I have often felt that such ‘other worldly simpleton love’ Christians are more trying to save their own skins rather than save any souls. Love of Jesus is tough and dangerous. It involves calling a spade a spade at the face of spade as much it involves loving in the face of extreme animosity and danger. Jesus of the Bible (and not the tamed image of Jesus which is an idol carved by our own mind) was highly critical of the society he lived even to extend of intentionally provoking and offending the social and religious groups of that time. Yet, Jesus loved dangerously to point of cross. Let us read the Holy Bible to understand it.  

1.    John 9 & 10: Why Did Jesus Make Clay on a Sabbath? 

Jesus the Good Shepherd and Light of the World who Intentionally Provokes a Hypocritical Society to Expose its Darkness  

Let us begin with a passage from the Gospel of John:  John 9: 1- 7

“Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.  And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.  I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.  As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  When He had said these things, He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay.  And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went and washed, and came back seeing.” 

How did the works of God reveal in this blind man? When the blind received the sight surely the power of God was revealed. But that interpretation alone would leave a few questions unanswered.  Let me ask two questions from this passage; 

  • Why did Jesus make the clay to heal the blind man? Should he not have healed by mere words as he did at many other times?
  • How did it prove that Jesus is the light of the world?

We will begin with the first question. Jesus had healed a centurion’s servant without even seeing that person (Matthew 8:5-13). Jesus who created heavens and earth by His word could have healed a blind man with His word. In fact, we may think that would have expressed God’s power more. Then why did Jesus make the clay.  

The answer is given in the next few verses. We have missed the answer as the answer is so uncomfortable to all. 

John 9: 13-15 “They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” 

The answer is – it was a Sabbath. What does that mean? As the Lord of Sabbath, Jesus could have healed the blind man by His word.  Then did Jesus make clay on a Sabbath to provoke the Pharisees?

It obviously seems to have caused a big offence to the Pharisees. They could not believe it. They asked the blind man again (John 9:15).  Then they called his parents (John 9: 18 – 21). They again (John 9:24) called the blind man who received the sight and asked “how did He open your eyes?” (John 9:26). That how question seems to have really bothered Pharisees. When we understand why of that ‘how’, it will really bother many of us also. Among many other things, this seems to have caused the Pharisees to reject Jesus as Messiah. They even excommunicated the erstwhile blind man. His parents also seem to have been afraid.  

Was making the clay that worth? Pharisees got offended, erstwhile blind man got excommunicated, his parents got scared and Jesus was rejected.  What would we have said? I suggest a few answers.
 

  • He could have done it differently: While we truly appreciate the work of Jesus in healing the blind, we certainly disapprove his ‘way’ of doing it. In fact, he could have done it on other six days to avoid any offence and unrest in the society. As a matter of fact, a ruler of the synagogue suggested this- “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them and not on the Sabbath day” (Luke 13:14). This ruler of the synagogue would have been hailed as a wise man and a peace loving believer by many. But let us see the answer by Jesus.

    Answer by Jesus: In Luke 13: 15-16 we read “The Lord then answered him and said “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound-think of it- for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?”
     

  • He is unbiblical: Some of us would have surely rejected Jesus. Many of us like the Pharisees are very “thorough with the Bible” and we know it for sure that no one will intentionally provoke like this!!! Pharisees said “This man is not from God because He does not keep the Sabbath” (John 9:16).

    Answer by Jesus: John 10:1 “Most assuredly, I say to you he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep”. If our response corresponds to Pharisees, then it is time for us to examine ourselves. 

2.    Matthew 15: 1-20 and Luke 11: 37-46: Why Did Jesus Eat Without Washing the Hands? 

Jesus Breaks a Scientific Tradition to Expose a Hollow Value System

Pharisees are no longer a dominant group. In fact their influence seems to have weaned away long time back. Why did the word of God devote much space for this group who were influential for only a short time? I believe it is because they were a type of many past, present and future ‘influential religious groups’.  

If someone can boast in prayer, then a Pharisee could boast much more. He prayed standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets (Matthew 6:5) and his prayers were definitely longer (Matthew 23:14). 

If someone can boast in fasting (may be once in a week or once in year) and giving money to religious institutions, then a Pharisee could boast more. For he fasted twice a week and gave tithes of all that he possessed (Luke 18:12)  

If someone can boast in being ritually clean, then a Pharisee could boast more. He was truly offended when someone broke their cleanliness rituals and paid no spiritual value for those (Matthew 15:1-20).  

If someone can boast in being teachers of religious texts, then a Pharisee could boast more. A Pharisee memorized the Pentateuch.

If someone can boast of their concern for souls, then a Pharisee could boast more. His ‘concern’ for the lost soul was so much that he travelled land and sea to win one convert (Matthew 23:15).  

Jesus seems to have offended this group by breaking a few scientific and healthy traditions of them. This group can be identical of any religious and social group. It can be Hindus, Muslims and even some Christians. If you want to know the gravity of this offence, ask a Muslim about his opinion of someone praying without washing hands and feet. He is surely a Kafir.  

In Matthew 15:1-2, we see the disciples of Jesus eating the bread without washing their hands. When Jesus was questioned about this by Pharisees and scribes, Jesus did not scold the disciples or apologize to the Pharisees and scribes. He rather exposed the Pharisees and scribes. < span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: 'Verdana','sans-serif'"> One may say that this breaking of the tradition by disciples were not intentional.  However, in Luke 11: 38, Jesus himself did not wash His hands before dinner. When scribes and Pharisees saw, they were surely offended by this. When asked about this, Jesus exposed their hypocritical values. How would we have responded?

I give two options:

 

  • Offence and the soul saving concern: Some of us out of genuine concern may express a soul saving concern. We may ask- if we offend someone how will we save them? Disciples asked the same question. They said in Matthew 15:12, we read: “Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?”

    Answer by Jesus: Matthew 15: 13-14 But He answered and said “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” 

    (Note:  Here people were offended because their evil deeds were exposed. You can also read Matthew 13:57. Now, there is another type of offense- where we offend someone because of our sin. LORD Jesus Christ spoke about it in Matthew 18:6-9. Jesus Christ himself explained this offense when He said “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you” (Matthew 18:8). We must differentiate between these two offenses and the second one we must never do).

  • You are vilifying them: One of the objections to social criticism is – you are vilifying them. It seems we should not call spade a spade.  In Luke 11:45, we read “Then one of the lawyers answered and said to Him, “Teacher, by saying these things You reproach us also.”  

    Answer by Jesus:  Luke 11:46 “And He said, Woe to you also lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.  

Some may whine and say “what a tasteless language”. Some Dawah preachers like MM Akbar had already said so. Unfortunately a few Christians will also denounce such language if it comes from any believer. If our response corresponds to Pharisees and still we claim that we are Christians, it is time for us to examine ourselves. 

Someone may have a question here: If we identify so much with the oppressed of the society (read Dalits) and take up their cause, are we not alienating the Pharisee (read the Brahmins). 

3.    Jesus Identified With the Tax Collectors and Sinners (Matthew 9: 9-13) 

It must be remembered that Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners. When Pharisees saw it and asked the disciples about it, Jesus answered them in Matthew 9:12-13: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance”.  

Is it not Jesus who said: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD” (Luke 4:18-19). 

Should we now have any problem to stand with the poor, brokenhearted, captives, blind and the oppressed? If we stand with the oppressed (e.g. Dalits) and speak boldly and strongly against the oppressor (e.g. Brahmins), will we not be persecuted? Are we not adding fire to the fuel?  

Do not worry. Pharisees had already thought about it. They said: “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him and Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48). Therefore they had a solution- reject and crucify Jesus.  That is

the only solution for Christians who would want to make a compromise to buy ‘peace’. Choice is yours. 

Does all this mean that we want a civil war? Does that we mean we will not love Brahmins, or the oppressor? No. Not at all. It only means that we will love according to the Bible. Read this: Proverbs 28:4 “Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them.” 

Jesus taught to love everyone in an unconventional way. In Luke 10:29-37, Jesus told the story of a Good Samaritan. Telling the story of a Good Samaritan to a “lawyer” (Pharisee) is like telling the story of a Dalit to a Brahmin.  It is not just offensive to the Brahmins but it is also a hardship for the Dalits. I cannot explain that story better than Martin Luther King, Jr, a man who imitated Jesus well. Below is the excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr’ s famous and last speech- I've Been to the Mountaintop. 

4.    Luke 10:29-37- The Story of a Good Samaritan   

Martin Luther King, Jr:  

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base…. Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate.

But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.

 Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn't stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn't be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that "One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony." And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem — or down to Jericho, rather to organize a "Jericho Road Improvement Association." That's a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect. But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me.

It's possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles — or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road.

In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked — the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"  

That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question. Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. 

Remember Martin Luther King was highly critical of white supremacists. He never minced the words or used politically correct language. But he never took the gun also. He was martyred just apostles were martyred. In them, we have examples of imitators of Jesus. 

In Conclusion: Jesus of Nazareth was highly critical of the social structure that he lived in. He did not mind to intentionally provoke and even offend the oppressors of the society. But He did not allow us to take revenge and hate. It is a paradoxical love and in this if someone is offended and does not come to the saving grace of Jesus Christ, let us say “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch”.  Love of Jesus is tough and dangerous.  

For Further Reading:  

  1. Truth and Social Reform by Vishal Mangalwadi (http://www.vishalmangalwadi.com/vkmWebSite/files/Truth_and_
    Social_Reform.pdf
    )
  2. Deeper Hindu Studies and Skepticism by Pandita Ramaba (http://www.sakshitimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=122&Itemid=41)

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9 Responses

  1. Hi, Jerry

    A very comprehensive and well-thought of article as usual. I’m deeply touched with the expression – loving to the point of the cross.

    My reservations would be the simple categorisation of Dalits as “oppressed” and Brahmins as “oppressors” in all situations. There are situations today where the situation has been reversed when Dalit politicians have pushed their own agendas to their personal advantage and in some cases have been willing to join communal forces to firm up their voter bases. How can we forget Dalit or Tribal leaders exploiting their own people despite having access to Government resources? Shoudnt the church be speaking against that as well? Is Mayawati a friend of the gospel of Christ which speaks against all injustice just because she is a Dalit? The Lord went into the home of the Pharisee and others alike and ate with all – a indication of friendship. And he lashed out at hypocrisy wherever he saw them, whether among the Pharisees or his own disciples. Does that mean we should be against the church just because Jesus spoke against particular agendas of the disciples? People like Nicodemus & Gamaliel remind us that as we evaluate groups of people its presumptous to tar everyone with the same brush. Generalisations are usually to be cautiously done to ensure that we dont mistake the part for the whole or the whole for the part. I suggest that the Nazareth Manifesto must be taken to expose poverty, oppression etc in every segment of society and by whoever it is practiced – whether Brahmin or Dalit. To argue that more Dalits are oppressed than Brahmins is to miss the point and to downgrade the value of the individual Brahmin who is as much an image bearer of God as the Dalit. The gospel must remain the totalising claim that it is and not be hitched to a particular social agenda. Which means that we must judge the social agenda by the gospel so that it is transformed and becomes an expression of the gospel – where the Brahmin learns to love the Dalit and the Dalit learns to love the Brahmin. So we fight against injustice but we also push for love – for both! Recent attempts to incentivise Dalit conversions by toeing their anti-Brahmin agenda is to limit the gospel and invariably results in false conversions – a lesson that Indian church history has failed to teach us. And we need to think why Dr. Ambedkar (an undisputed leader of Dalits) did not become a Christian instead of a Buddhist in his fight against Brahmin oppression? Maybe, he saw through our ideological fig leaves and our mental confusion – as seen in our churches which freely practice all the oppressions and injustices that we accuse others of. We need not be against the married to take care of the widow, against the rich to take care of the poor nor against every Brahmin to take care of every Dalit. And that is if every Dalit really needs our care. In contrast, surely, every Dalit and Brahmin need the gospel which would transform and challenge them and their agendas! And if it means fighting against the oppressive Brahmin and Brahminism, then we should. Without forgetting to fight against the oppressive Dalit as well. Ajoy

  2. Dear Brother Ajoy,

    Thanks for your comments. I agree that irrespecitve of caste and creed, we must speak against every injustice.

    1. I agree all men and women, of all religion, caste, race and creed are equally sinners at an individual level. A Nazi and a Jew are equally sinners at individual level

    2. All sins must be exposed

    3. However, all communities are not equally guilty in their histrocial exploitation. A Nazi and a Jew are not equally guilty at one historical point of time. I do not see the need to speak against the Jew in the same breath I speak against a Nazi at the same time. This article is more at a community level.

    Like any article, this too has the limitation of not covering every aspect. Thanks so much for pointing out. I hope I am clear now.

    In Christ

    Your loving brother

    Jerry

  3. I feel the article is highly biased.Please Don’t infiltrate Dalit agenda into christianity.No doubt Dalits have been oppressed a lot.Why pointing out on Brahmins alone?Of course you can say Manu Dharm.The article will widen the gap more.If the opportunity were given to any non-brahmin to write Dharma Shastra,they too would write in favour of their caste or group.Dalits are not exceptional.Bible says There is none righteous.It applies to Dalits.Poor Dalits Shame on their part,for reservations sake they profess Hinduism.If they truly want freedom and justice from the oppressed caste system,why should they continue in Hinduism?Church has been dominated by Dalits.Its a privilege.We can see many Dalit corrupt pastors and christian leaders.I am sorry to say this.I was also a Dalit.In Christ i am not a Dalit.Are you fighting against Brahmins as a Dalit Christian?or just as a Christian?Dalit Christian is a misnomer.I treat the so-called upper castes as Spiritual Dalits.They were deprived of Christ knowledge because of the corrupt leaders in churches who were once socially dalits.What we need today is articles leading oppressors and oppressed sections into Reconciliation.The Best Example is Jesus crucifixion for all.Not the other examples of the Radical Jesus in His ministry.What do you achieve by writing such article?It hurts.Don’t justify them with the examples.You may boast of winning few souls by Muslim-Christian debate.I am sure the same number of weak christians would have been turned into muslims also.Sorry the point is irrelevant.Please please dont infiltrate Dalit agenda into church.

  4. Dear Vijay,

    I agree that we may not have to pitch Dalits against Brahmins or so. I might be completely wrong in this understanding. If I am convinced that I am wrong, I will change this idea. Any ways, that was only a contextualization (or application of the scripture) to the current context. As I am not an infalliable interperter, I can be absolutely wrong in this. But until then, I too have the freedom as a priest of one True God Jesus, to share my understanding.

    Even if we disagree at that point in this article (in the application to the current context), how did you say that “Not the other examples of the Radical Jesus in His ministry.”

    I for one would like to follow Jesus as he is. Is there an option for us to pick and choose some part of the life of Jesus and leave some other part?

    Jesus is God and not just a scholar. We must accept God either in completely or reject completely. With scholars and other human beings, we have the option of saying I agree with this part but not with that part as much you can disagree with this article. But there is no middle option where we can say I accept Jesus on the cross and not the radical part of Jesus’s ministry.

    If there is a radical part(if you want to call that radical), let us also be radical.

    In Christ

    Your loving brother

    Jerry

    Note: I wrote this article with the full knowedlge that it will cause discomfort to many of my brothers and sisters. That is the reason I am trying to address the concern as raised by brothers and sisters. My point is that let us follow Jesus as He is mentioned in the Gospels otherwise we are following our own idols.

    Of course, I would like to leave the irrelevant point you raised (as you said) unaddressed. My only request is please do not assume things about your own brother.

  5. Hi,

    I do not think this article by Bro. Jerry is a novel interpretation of Jesus. Vishal Mangalwadi might be one of the best Christian apologists India ever saw. He too seems to have a radical understanding of Jesus.

    Read the below excerpt from http://www.vishalmangalwadi.com/vkmWebSite/files/Truth_and_Social_Reform.pdf

    Service: A Judgment of a Blind Society

    After He opened the eyes of a beggar who was born blind (John 9), Jesus did not suggest He was a ‘servant’, He said, ‘I came to this world to judge, so that the blind should see and those who see

    should become blind’ (John 9:39 GN). The disciples asked Jesus, ‘Rabbi who sinned, this man or

    his parents, that he was born blind?’

    This question seems to have hurt Jesus. It is hard to believe that the disciples were asking a sincere question about the cause of an inexplicable suffering. Certainly Jesus did not think that they had a profound philosophical interest in the problem of suffering which deserved an answer.* Were the disciples really asking, ‘Rabbi, could you kindly provide us with some good rationale to justify our indifference to the suffering of this man?’ True, the man was born blind. But did he have to be a beggar?

    True, both he and his parents were sinners. But was Israel justified in ignoring the fact that he was also a human being made in the image of God, worthy of love and care? He was begging, neither because he was blind, nor because he was a sinner, but because Israel was blind to the fact that he was an image-bearer of God, the crown of God’s Creation. He was a beggar because Israel had sinned by not caring for him. Instead of seeing their own sinful indifference the disciples were more keen on finding out his

    sin and that of his parents.

    Jesus, therefore, sought to open their eyes by His brilliant act of civil disobedience. The incident in John 5 was not an isolated happening. It was part of Christ’s pattern. On that occasion Jesus had simply asked

    the sick man to break the Sabbath law. Then in chapter 9 He did it Himself. In order to open the eyes of this blind man, He did not need to spit on the ground and make mud with the spit, especially on a Sabbath day when He knew that it would be seen as ‘work’ and therefore a deliberate act of defiance of the Establishment’s laws. Yet, He did it.

    It was a deliberate provocation of the Establishment. Jesus also asked the blind man to break the law, ‘Go and wash your face in the pool of Siloam’ (John 9:7 GN). Jesus did not need to do this in order to heal him, but healing him was not the only objective of Christ’s service. His objective included exposing the blindness of the self-righteous Establishment and condemning it publicly. Had not God commanded Israel in the Old Testament to have mercy on its poor? If Israel was righteous and obedient, why did this man beg on the streets in order to live?

    Civil disobedience is a deliberate and courageous act of a reformer to expose and condemn the institutionalised evils of his day. That is what Jesus was doing. And the Establishment was blind enough to be thus exposed. Instead of containing Christ’s service by patronising it, they condemned the healing of a blind man, simply because it was done on a Sabbath. They excommunicated the man from the synagogue and thereby further exposed their own blindness. The world was able to see that a mighty prophet had arisen among them who could open the eyes of a man born blind, yet the Establishment could see nothing more than the violation of its own petty rules. Its values, its ideals, its attitudes, its

    priorities all stood exposed and condemned. The world was able to see that its rulers did not care for their people, but Christ did. The sheep were able to perceive that Jesus was their true shepherd who

    dared to stand against the wolves pretending to be their custodians.

    Jesus made the blind man pay a heavy price for his healing. He was excommunicated from the synagogue because he chose to speak the truth. No doubt, he would have been welcomed into the

    community of Christ’s disciples, yet his excommunication must have helped many sincere Jews to make up their minds against their own rulers whose own blindness had been exposed. Such service which judges the world is not pleasant. The authorities not only excommunicated the man; they also made it

    known publicly that Jesus was persona non grata. Whoever said that Jesus was Christ would be excommunicated. It became harder to associate with Jesus; being seen around Him could land someone

    into trouble. The Association for Comprehensive Rural Assistance (ACRA) was the community with which I served the rural poor in Chattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh from 1976 till April 1983.

    We were involved in service which stirred the social pool, which judged the blindness of the Establishment. When you judge the world, the world retaliates by judging you. During May 1982, thirty

    of us were arrested on four different occasions, because we not only helped the victims of a hail-storm, but also through our service exposed the insensitivity of the politicians towards the victims

    of this natural calamity. It is joked in our area that we get three crops a year: the winter crop, the monsoon crop, and the relief crop. The last is always a “bumper crop” for the political and civil

    servants. The politicians not only had us arrested, but they also tried to have me murdered. The superintendent of police himself threatened this. Many Christian leaders were frightened, and disassociated themselves from me. Such treatment hurts. It makes you lose friends. They choose not to associate with you, lest they too, get into trouble. Yet, one has to decide whether he wishes to

    walk in the footsteps of his Master and serve the oppressed, or please his friends. Jesus’ mercy did not touch a blind beggar alone.

    How many blind people could He heal in three years anyway? How many blind people can the Church heal through its hospitals and eye centres? We must have compassion for the individual. But

    we must also understand that he is a beggar not because he is blind, but because the society in which he lives is blind to his need. A blind man can be happy and fulfilled if society cares for him. Karl Marx rightly understood that true compassion calls for dealing with the social context which makes men miserable. Marx, however, defeated his own purpose by trying to build a case for compassion on atheistic premises. If the individual man is merely a product of random chance in an impersonal universe, then there is no meaning in caring for him, especially when he is too weak and powerless to be of any use to us. But if man is a created being, then he is special to his Creator. If he is created as the imagebearer

    of the Creator Himself, he is even more special. If each individual is to relate to the Creator in an intimate personal relationship and to carry out His will for Him in this world, then he is very special indeed. That is how Jesus saw this blind beggar. ‘He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him’ (John 9:3 GN).

    Because an ‘unknown’ blind beggar is special to God we must have compassion for him individually. This compassion must be visible in specific acts of mercy, but our compassion for him must go deep enough to create a society which can see that a beggar is a special person of God; he ought not to be allowed to destroy his self-respect by begging. He should not have to live a hand-to-mouth insecure existence, until one day he falls sick, becomes too weak to beg and rots by the roadside to be eaten by beasts, birds and

    worms. If our society cannot see that a blind beggar is a special person, then we are blind to truth. And if we do not acknowledge our blindness, then we are hypocritical, self-righteous and sinful. We should condemn the blindness of our society, and work to build a more humane and compassionate community within it.

    ____________________________

    Indian Christianity needs radical Christians like this.

  6. Dear Sunil,

    Thanks for this comment. I had put this book for further reading at the end of my article.

    I once met the revolutionary singer Gaddar in Andhra Pradesh. I asked him if he is concerned about poor, why he is not a Christian?

    His answer was: I am yet to see a Martin Luther King in India. The people who converted are Christians with a Hindu worldview.

    Though I disagreed that as a reason for not accepting Christ (I asked him “why don’t you become that Martin Luther King), I fully agree that we lack a Martin Luther King in India. We lack a Abraham Lincoln and a William Willberforce who in turn took the cause of slavery at the advice of the great Christian preacher John Wesley.

    Gospel is not limited to saving souls, though it is a primary concern. It is also reforming our culture by being counter-culutre.

    In Christ

    Your loving brother

    Jerry

  7. Vijay,

    You seems to be more like a self-condemning Christian.

    Vijay: You may boast of winning few souls by Muslim-Christian debate.I am sure the same number of weak christians would have been turned into muslims also.Sorry the point is irrelevant.Please please dont infiltrate Dalit agenda into church.

    1. One terrorists who recently got killed in Kashmir was a converted Muslim from Chrisianity. One who got arrested was also a Muslim from Christianity.

    2) There are ex-Christian pastors who have become Muslims

    The situtation is so depressing that Zakir and his gang go on banging Christians and people like Vijay have a problem with a group who debates and refutes such group.

    Vijay- you may have never attended an intellectual discussion. There is a room for disagreement. You might have been fed by a group who said believe us totally or get out.

    If you want to read how matured Christians can disagree (or agree) with any aspect of this article, please read Ajoy Varghese’s comment. You spoke more like an envious guy.

  8. Too much of contextualization of the social message of Christianity might end up changing the face of the Spiritual message of Christianity for the audience to which it is being preached. In India, when ever we talk about Christianity, we always want to pick the Pro-dalit and anti-brahmin aproach. It might be true that Christianity is capable of bringing brahminical dominance to a screeching halt, but Christianity has more to it than that.

    Now a days, when ever Christian leaders have to defend conversions, they tend to take the shelter under this aspect of Christianity, while they conveniently ignore the Spiritual message of Christianity, that Christianity needs to spread and conversions need to happen, not only because we want to liberate the dalits, but because Christianity is the only religion that has power to save the souls.

    So long as we concentrate on linking the saving power of Christianity with the Dalit movement, we will become guilty of reducing the overall power of the gospel of it’s ability to save souls from hell.

    This does not mean we should not talk about Christianity’s role and power to liberate Dalits, but when statements on defence of conversion are made, the lesser we touch the topic of dalits, the better.

  9. Dear Brother,

    I do not know who you are. But thanks for this thought provoking comment. It makes sense to me. I would appericate if you can contribute articles from this perspective rather than restrict it to a comment.

    With love

    Jerry

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