Thank you so much for your kind response. I got it now.
Thank you for the commentaries.
Hi Jacob, I would like to ask you one more question. Thank you once again for your response to my above questions. I’m learning.
I see a lot of debate going on related to Christians and Yoga. My question is should a Christian practice Yoga in the line of practicing it just for physical therapy (fitness) ? Will it be a sin if a Christian practicing it without thinking of any spiritual matters of Hinduism but just for the benefit of the body i.e fitness?
I have a question, 1 Corinthians 5:9 says do not associate with sinners but Luke 15:4-6 says doth not though leave the 99 sheep and go after the lost. what is the difference between these two?
Yes children seem to ask the most pertinent and difficult questions. I teach Sunday School for the age groups 9-12 in my church, and it definitely is a challenging apologetic endeavour:)
One of the important ways to understand parables is not to analyse every detail and see how it is logically flawed. Parables are simple stories, used to illustrate a deep spiritual turth. So they focus on one particular point and the emphasis of the story is on that particular point. In this parable the point is that for God every single person is valuable in His eyes. The individual is as precious as the group. You can tell your student that the shepherd would have ensured that the rest of the flock were completely safe and protected until he returned. He would have made sure of it before going to find that one sheep.
Yes you are right. There is a huge debate on yoga in the Christian world. With views ranging from complete acceptance to complete rejection. I tend to lean towards the more cautious side of the debate. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word to unite and this unity is towards ‘ultimate reality’. It is difficult to separate the deep Hinduistic worldview and framework from the practice of yoga and just see it as a mere physical exercise. So my advice is to proceed with a lot of caution before you start any of the practices.
My friend and colleague Balajied Nongrum has done a lot of research on the subject and I am attaching an article and an interview done by him on the subject.
Is ‘Yoga’ merely a set of physical exercises?
What are the spiritual roots of yoga?
Before I answer your question, I would like to give you a framework for Biblical interpretation that can be helpful. The first passage you gave was from 1 Corinthians and the second passage you mentioned is a parable of Jesus in Luke. One is a letter written by Paul to the corinthian church and the other is a story by Jesus with earthly examples but revealing a deeper spiritual truth. So both these verses cannot be compared on a flat plane, rather we understand the meaning of the verses within the context and the genre of the literature and then from the extrapolated meaning, we then compare and see if it’s a contradiction or not. A helpful resource for biblical interpretation is Gordon fee’s book, how to read the Bible for all its worth.
Now in the first passage you mentioned (1 Corinthians 5:9- I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people) Paul is writing to the church in Corinth especially in regards to sexual immorality that is creeping into the church. It is a relatively new church and Corinth which is a rich city is known for this type of immorality and Paul is emphasising that if Christians are a counter cultural community to the world around then they need to abstain from their practices. It is not to say that as Christians you should never have any relations with non Christians but rather in this context, not to indulge in the type of activities the those outside the church are indulging in.
An important aspect of this is also to understand that we are weak human beings who are heavily influenced by those around us. We should never overestimate our capabilities and inherent sin nature. Especially since these are new Christians, Paul understands that there is a good chance that they will be swayed by the ways of the sexual immoral people if they associate too closely with them. Hence he is giving them a cautionary note to stay away from them.
The verse you pointed out in Luke 15:4-6 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.
In this passage Jesus is emphasising that even one individual person is precious in God’s eyes. Unlike nations, companies and organisations where the value and contributions of the group heavily superceed that of the individual, for God the individual matters as much as the group. Jesus is telling us that each one of us matter in His kingdom. That is indeed a beautiful thought. God cares for each one of us personally.
So you see the two verses that at first seems contradictory are actually saying two very different things. The verse in Corinth is a warning against sexual immorality and the verse in Luke is about how God cares for each one of us as individuals. I hope you found this helpful. Tools for Biblical interpretation are very helpful and vital for understanding the deeper meanings of the Bible and growing in our faith.
Thanks so much for your response Jacob.
Jacob, I have 3 questions.
A. How would you characterize Christianity in India in comparison with Christianity in other parts of the World?
B. It seems like Christianity in India in general has too much emphasis in charity and in good works both at the organizational level and also at personal level to a greater extent. Please comment on this.
C. And what according to you is the best way for Christianity to develop strong roots in India at the present context. (As I was reading some of your comments above I noted that you pointed out that the gospel was started to spread in India 2000 years ago. But still we seem very ineffective and weak in delivering the message of the gospel in India). I would appreciate your thoughts and comments on that.
Sorry I’m so late in replying! Thanks for sharing these ideas. I think what I value in them is the same thing that you do – the familiarity of the stories that literature tell us! I am similar to you in my preferences – Narnia is close to my heart and I’m also interested in Dostoevsky.
And thanks for your answer to the Sikhism question!! That was extremely helpful to me and I will use what you have shared when I am talking to some Sikh acquaintances I have. It seems like Sikhism has a lot of common ground with Christianity for us to build on. I really appreciate how you’ve given such a specific way to talk about the diety of Jesus. Can’t wait to see how that will factor into conversations!!
A. Well though the Christian population in India is just 2.3%, you have almost all traditions of Christianity in India. Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox, Syrian christians, and all the protestant traditions. There wasn’t one particular era in Indian history when christianity spread, but it came in different waves. First when st. Thomas came, then the fourth century, then catholic missionaries, then colonisations by the French, Portuguese and the British and so on. So India does have a very unique christian history.
B. Yes you are right. There is a lot of social and charitable works done by both the catholics and the protestants. It is a way of impacting the culture. In many parts of India Christianity is almost synonymous with high quality schools (with very nominal fees for the underprivileged), Hospitals, Orphanages, Old age homes etc.
C. The best way to develop strong roots in India is definitely through Apologetics. It is time for Christians to engage confidently with the deeper philosophies of the different religions. This needs to be done at the highest levels. First in the major cities in India and I am sure it will trickle down from there. In a way that is what we do as the RZIM India family.
Another way is undoubtedly by showing Christian love. To continue to show the nation that christians are committed to the cause of the weak and the downtrodden. And finally it is also important especially in India to show the healing power of the Gospel. I do mean this in a wholistic sense. The Gospel brings us ultimate healing from the condition we are in, but it also meets our physical needs. As of now many charismatic churches are in the forefront of this movement. They are gaining a lot of traction and have millions of people joining the church (many of them from different backgrounds) but it is also at the cost of very thin theological thinking. These Churches need to be helped and backed with good apologetics and strong Christian theology.
Glad to know the Sikhism answer helped. Praying for you as you engage with your fellow neighbour. May God guide you and give you wisdom.
Hope that your interest in literature continues and you find ways to use your gifting and understanding of narratives and stories for Gods glory.