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Commemorating Diwali as an Indian Christian

Commemorating Diwali as an Indian Christian

 “Commemorating Diwali as a Christan?”, sounds strange???

Well. As a Christian I am equally enthusiastic to commemorate the festival Diwali. I believe that every Indian Christian (or any Christian for that matter) can retrospect on these themes of the festival when their Indian Hindus friends celebrate Diwali.

I grew up in my village in Kanykumari along with my Hindu and Christian neighbours and relatives. Diwali for us was more of a social celebration than a religious one. I am privileged to live in India where I can learn and understand the perspectives of people following different religion. During every festival I try to study its background and try to relate it with Bible and grapple to find how it appeals to me as a Christian.

Today it is time for me to reflect on Diwali. There are lot of narratives revolving around Diwali. Commenting on different ways people celeberate diwali, reporter Ankit Mehara writes to international Business times,

Owing to India’s cultural diversity, the festival gets a distinct regional touch in different parts of the country. In north India, people celebrate Diwali to mark the victory of Lord Ram over demon King Ravana and his return to Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakhsman after 14 years of exile… In the south, the festival is called Deepavali and marks the defeat of demon Narakasura. During Diwali, Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi are worshipped. The festival also holds a special importance to farmers across the country. Diwali marks the end of the harvest season, which is why the farmers celebrate it1.

Swami Chidanand Saraswati ,who conceived the idea of and laying the foundation for the 11-volume Encyclopedia of Hinduism, talks about Diwali his blog 2 as:

The time of Diwali is one of the most festive and beautiful times of the year. Diwali literally means a “Row of Lights.” …It is the darkest night of the darkest period, yet it is a celebration of light! Diwali is heralded as the triumph of good over evil”.

He also mentions about some of the important themes of diwali like the celebration of light, the triumph of good over evil, of righteousness over treachery, of truth over falsehood, and of light over darkness, a fresh start and worship of Maha Lakshmi (prayer for prosperity). We can find parallel Christian theme for most of them in the Holy Bible as well.

Though I can elaborate on each theme, this year I would like to dwell on the theme of celebration of light from the Bible. I am excited to know how “celeberation of light” can be very much Christian as well. The very first book of The Holy Bible has a mention about Light:

“And God said, Let there be light, and there was light.

And God saw that the light was good”. 3

Even the Bible ends with a beautiful declaration about the light. Talking about the new heaven and earth Bible says in the last chapter:

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever”. 4

The declaration about light by Jesus is simply incredible for me. He claimed

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” 5

I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. ” 6

 Having declared himself as the Light of the world, He gave a higher responsibility to His followers. He called them as Jagdeep (Light of the World)

“You are the light of the world.” 7

 Christians are encouraged to walk in the light

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light ”. 8

 Yes. diwali is definitely important for me as a Christian. As my friends and neighbours light crackers, I have to introspect myself how am I reflecting Christ’s expectation of being the light of the world! Christian community should think of different ways of being light of the world in these days of darkness.

If the Christian community is the light of the world in Indian context, how is it reflecting it in politics, higher education, media, judiciary, social involvement, policy making, civil service and so on. We Christians were quite successful in being the “light of the world” in terms of proclaiming the good news of light and being light in the area of school education and providing medical facility. What about other areas??? Now its time for us to enlarge our diwali. What step we can take to be the Diwali in all spheres of life?

3Genesis 1:4

4Revelation of John 22:5

5 John 8:12

6John 12:46

7Matthew 5:14

8Ephesians 5:8

 

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Revealing God in Workplace

REVEALING GOD IN WORKPLACE

Bible text:

Slaves are to be submissive to their own mastersin everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,not pilfering,but showing all good faith,so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior”. [Titus 2: 9,10]

Shortcommentary:

Slaves in context:

Slavery was an unquestioned institution in the first century. At that time, slaves were found in all professions. W.L. Westermann writes,

The institution of slavery was a fact of Mediterranean economic life so completely accepted as a part of the labour structure of the time that one cannot correctly speak of the slave “problem” in antiquity. This unquestioning acceptance of the slave system explains why Plato in his plan of the good life as depicted in The Republic did not need to mention the slave class. It was simply there.

[W.L. Westermann.The Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity(The American Philosophical Society, 1955) p.215. Cited in James M.Rochford, The Bible and Slvaery, Evidence Unseen, < http://www.evidenceunseen.com/articles/the-goodness-of-god/the-bible-and-slavery/> (Accessed date: 3 March, 2014)]

End result expected from a slave:

in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.

Through each and every action the master may see how this slave is living a redeemed life in Christ

submissive to their own masters in everything

Probably in the then context, this is the job and structure of the then slaves. Whereas in other passages Bible does says about freedom for slaves as well.

20 Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. 21 Were you a bondservant[ d] when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) 22 For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants[ e] of men. “ I Cor 7:20-23

now the question to ponder is “ can an employee agree to the injustice done to him?”.

Here we face the difficulty of seeing both the verses that talk about justice and submission to authorities in tension.

For instance, if the head of the department asks his teacher (who is a believer) to pass a student who has not attended the class and who has performed extremely bad in his exam, what should be his response?

In today’s understanding of world with lot of empowerment to justice and right to information, the context we are living is not as it was in Paul’s time. At this point the teacher should show God of justice (Amos 5:24) through his evaluation and let the student fail. Even though this is a tough call to the believing teacher with all question of fired from job, this should be the response from teacher Biblically.

they are to be well-pleasing:

In today’s context this implies each person fulfilling his duties to the great extent so that he may be well appreciated by his supervisors. May be this is the automatci outcome if we do everything as we do to the Lord as ecpressed in Colo 3:23

not argumentative:

The role of a prophet as we see in the Bible is that of argumentative nature. But here we find an instance where Paul asks the slave not to be argumentative or not to contradict. How do we see the two sides in perspective? Should we also hold on to this principle in times when we see right to information and more emphasis on justice?

Well. This aspect should be seen alongside of other quality mentioned as “ showing all good faith”, “ not pilfrering” (stealing) and “well pleasing”. Probably if an employee who is always into doing good things and is excellent in his job, contradicts the employer there is possibility the employeer rethink.

not pilfering:

This is one of the basic principles God has revealed in Mosaic law itself. Can a teacher bring home the pen or pencil that is kept for official use? What is our conviction about pirated softwares or music?

but showing all good faith:

A believing employer should be a faithful person to his boss. He has to be faithful even in little things. In a times when people struggle to find faithful people how much we adorning the doctrine of God will become obvious when we remain as faithful people?

Reflection Questions:

  1. In today’s new paper we have a news item about junior doctors going on strike in Lucknow. What will be your response if you were a junior doctor there? ( http://epaper.indianexpress.com/237368/Lucknow/03-March-2014#page/8/1)

  2. We see a lot of election activities taking place. How do we discern the ones who will be faithful and will not steal?

  3. What challenge do we see in your work place?

  4. How can you show Christ in your workplace?

 

நீ விசுவாசித்தால் !

நீ விசுவாசித்தால் ! is a Tamil article on faith. Please click the following link to access the article. This article is written by my wife Selin and got published in Tharisana Sudar magazine, Jan 2014 issue.

click the following link to access the article: http://benalintamil.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/visuvasithal/

Vulnerable Campus life; Handle with holiness

Vulnerable Campus life; Handle with holiness

“Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour; because it is written,
‘You shall be holy, for I am holy” (I Pet. 1:15‐16).

What is Holiness?[1]

The biblical definition of “holiness”:

The basic Old Testament Hebrew word for “holy”, as an adjective, is, , qadoˉs. The noun form describes “holiness” while the verb form means “to sanctify.” The root meaning in the Old Testament is that of “purity which is set apart from impurity,”

In the New Testament, the parallel word is ἅγιος, hagios, which, via the Greek language, heavily draws upon the Hebrew concept, and thus has the closely related meaning of “moral purity, sanctity, consecration, veneration”.

What does Holiness means to a Christian?

Holiness means we have God’s standard of righteousness. The Bible reveals it as “Be holy, for I [the LORD your God] am holy.” (Lev. 11:44; cf. I Pet. 1:15‐16). “You shall be blameless before the Lord your God” (Deut. 18:13). Holiness also means the Christian is set apart from that which is alien to the moral character of God. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (II Cor. 7:1). “Now flee from youthful lusts” (II Tim. 2:22a). Also the Christian is set apart unto that which is in harmony with the moral character of God, this being positive holiness. Having been saved by “the righteousness of God” (Rom. 1:16‐17; 3:21‐26), the Christian will have an inclination to live “sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Tit. 2:13). “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you [Israel] apart from the peoples to be mine” (Lev. 20:26); “Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness” (I Tim 6:11; cf. II Tim. 2:22b).

The campus we have today:

Today we live in times when Godly standards are mocked upon. The ‘chalta hai’ attitude of compromise has held fast the campus inmates. Many innocent students enter the campus with all good standards. But by the time they leave the campus they are completely stripped off from their moral codes and conducts. I was surprised when one of my friends told that more than medicines condoms are sold in a medical store near a renowned Christian deemed University in our nation. I was shocked when one of my students told me that his roommate cannot sleep without drugs (intake as liquid or injection or smelling). Students who held not to smoke as their values start smoking, students who did not know what it means to take drugs become addicts to it during their stay in campus. Another evil that is prevailing in campuses is pornography. Nobody knows what is going. But many students live and die with the guilt of this evil. With the advent of High court verdict that permits gay sex many homosexual and lesbian relationships are going in the campuses. Another vice we see is pre marital sex and live in relationship that is opposed to Biblical standards.

Apart from these there are lot of unholy activities that go on which are directly related to the educational system. Today students do not give very much importance to their projects or researches. Instead of working hard they copy from other works (what is known as plagiarism) and present it as their own work. Another unholy activity which is known to all is cheating in examinations.

What does Holiness means to the inmate of campus:

The times we live is not at all conducive to live a Holy life as I explained above. But then God expects us to live a Holy life in all walks of life. What I primarily mean by living a Holy life is, (as explained above) having a life with Godly standard and abstaining from all defilement of flesh and spirit. It also means we have a holy standard in what we watch, what we speak, the way we relate to our friends, elders, relatives, teachers, etc, and having a holy standard in fulfilling our responsibilities (as a student or lecturer or so on,

How to deal with unholy lifestyle in campus:

Being God conscious: We have an excellent example of Joseph in Genesis where he was given an opportunity to sin but He could overcome it. The key reason is He was God conscious. “…How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Gen 39:9

Reflecting on Holiness of God: In Isaiah 6th chapter we find Isaiah encountering God’s Holiness. At that instant He was cleansed from His sins. Reflecting on God’s holiness helps one to know his sins and take right measures.

Being strong in God’s Word: Being strong in the Word of God is a key to live a Holy life. In Psal 119:1 the psalmist says “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” When we saturate our minds with that of God’s word when we are about to enter into temptation we will rightly hear a voice which will stop us from sinning. We can also remember the ways Lord Jesus dealt with temptation when He was tempted by satan

Being in a strong fellowship: Being in a fellowship is key to overcome sin. One of the important aspects of fellowship is helping one another. Heb 10:24, 29 says “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” .

Personal sharing: Having a prayer partner with whom we can share our struggles (provided the other person is ready to keep them confidently) helps us to live a holy life in campus. Being a mentee is one of the important aspects senior people can consider to guide junior students in living a holy life. Ecc 4:9 says “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.”

Having healthy relationship with opposite sex: We should have a healthy relationship with our friends of opposite sex. We should hold on to Biblical values as key even when we have different cultural values. Matthew 5:27-28 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  This applies to the male folks as well. We have to behave with our opposite sex with holy eyes. Each member of the opposite sex deserves respect. Bible also says “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” I tim 5:1,2

Practical tips in Dealing with pornography:[2]

Pornography is the vice that is killing lakhs of students. Christians are no exception. Your friend or any other person may not know about this but you may be burning with guilt and shame inside being unable to come out of this addiction.

Why porn is so compelling?

The thirsts we have when unfulfilled takes us to pornography. Making a list of thirst of one’s soul helps one to understand what triggers one to pornography. Some of the thirsts may be :

• Attention—I long for people to like me. I long for your embrace.

• Affection—I long to be enjoyed. I long to be delighted in. I long for you to take pleasure in who I am.

• Affirmation—I long to know I have what it takes. I long for your blessing.

• Acceptance—I long to belong. I long to be desired.

• Satisfaction—I long for fullness. I long for well-being.

• Significance—I long for impact. I long for meaning. I long to be powerful.

• Security—I long to know I will be okay.

Lust is also the outcome of our disordered desires or failures or brokenness we encountered. Especially irritation, loneliness, reminiscence of the deception you encountered, failed love relationship, etc can lead you to pornography.

 

How to overcome pornography?

  1. Have exclusive fasting and prayer continuously to come out of this evil.
  2. Delete all porn material you have in any form (book, cd, search history, etc).
  3. Identify your triggers (some brokenness, unfulfilled desire or some affection) which lead you to pornography. Having identified your triggers try to find what other way can these needs be met.
  4. Identify some of the circumstances that lead you to pornography. One example may be seeing an attractive wall poster.
  5. Do not browse when you are alone or in your private room. Have limited data pack. Write the objectives and work to do with a time limit before sitting to browse. Do not delete search history.
  6. If needed install softwares that filters porn. K9 security is one good software to filter porn. You can also use accountability software covenant eyes. Both have powerful free versions as well.

Remember sometimes you may have a relapse. Don’t worry fight again. Have a accountability partner and share with him. In a course of time with prayer God will help you to overcome.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Holiness in relation to ones education:

It is very important as believers to have Godly standards in all aspects of our education as well. The way we do our projects, term papers, class tests, assignments, examinations, home works, etc should show to others that Christian students will have a holy attitude in academic aspects as well. In Isaiah and Jeremiah and in many of the minor prophets we find people reap the punishment for wrong standards. God expects Godly standard in the way we relate to our educational system. Same applies to working inmates of campus as well. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. Bile also says “…approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:10-11

Conclusion:

God the holy one who is praised “Holy, Holy, Holy” by the angels want the citizens of the Kingdom of God to have Godly standards and shun from what is evil. This holiness is to be reflected in all aspects of our life. When Daniel was taken to a new situation (a new campus indeed!) he decided not to defile himself. Can we also take this stand as we stay in our respective campuses?

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.” Daniel 1:8


[2] Adapted from the book Surfing for God written by Michael John Cusick. Thomas Nelson, Inc publication 2012.

Call for courageous writing

Insights from my short meditation on Jeremiah 36. In this passage i could see the roles of a Christian writer. He is as powerful as a prophet. The concept of whiste blowing and courageous journalism is not alien to a Christian thought. We can see a parallel between Courageous journalist, whistle blowers and prophets mentioned in Bible. What follows is a short outline of my meditation from Jeremiah 36

– God wants to use writing as communicating His voice. Specially He uses it as a means to help people to accept God’s forgiveness (v1 – 3)
– a writer s supposed to get insights from God and translate them into writing (v 4)
– a writer s not alone responsible for writing but to see that his writing reaches the target audience (v 5-10)
– God protects His writers for accomplishing His purpose. (v 11- 27)
– a writer has to call a spade a spade and should be ready to face even evil consequenses. But no compromise on content. (v 29, 32)
– a writer should not give up his effort of communicating God’s voice to people even if his writing is rejected or destroyed (v 28- 31)

? – am i ready to be a whistle blower for God which will help the people who read me to experience God’s forgiveness?
? – am i ready to sit with God and get His insights on social issues we face and give a God’s perspective to my readers?
– am i ready to risk myself in telling the truth?