Winter Break is a time of celebration in this part of India. Competing parties play music on overstressed speakers at the loudest possible volume. It continues pounding late into the night. The festivities below our hotel window didn’t end until 1:00AM the other night. We arrived at the boarding school on Sunday. Since it is Winter Break, many of the kids are gone visiting relatives. So we are able to spend time with the staff and the kids who stay here permanently. Construction has begun on the new school building. New teachers are being hired and things are in good shape. I had an opportunity this morning to spend time with Pastor Ajay.
Pastor Ajay grew up in a Hindu home. His childhood grasp of the supernatural world sounds to me like something out of an X-Men movie. He was particularly drawn to Ganesh, the god of new beginnings. Ganesh is an obstacle remover, a problem solver, and a patron of letters. With an elephant head, four arms and a human body, this hero of the Hindu pantheon is revered for his power and intelligence. As a young man, Ajay found inspiration in his own desire to become a man of intelligence, power and action in adversity.
At the age of 17 a classmate told Ajay that Jesus was the Lord of lords – the Creator who came to Earth – and that there is no other God. Ajay could not accept it. How could God have come to Earth and not done some serious damage? Whenever Ganesh showed up, he dealt with the evildoers by destroying them. Ganesh kills. He has never forgiven anyone. But when Jesus came, He forgave everyone – even the evildoers. How could this be? Ajay initially opposed his friend. He insisted that Ganesh, with four arms, would beat Jesus in a fight. But he couldn’t get forgiveness out of his mind. Eventually, Ajay gave his life to Jesus.
I am in north India as I write this. We are making an investment in the life of a school here run by local Christians. I get to participate in the groundbreaking of a new school building. The Christians who run the school are a minority in this part of India and are immersed in a culture that is dominated by Hindu life, worship, holidays and the caste system. Hindus are their neighbors, friends, classmates, coworkers, and even family. Thinking of Hindus as enemies would be unthinkable. While there are times when some in the Hindu community raise tensions and Christians feel threatened, for the most part they make good neighbors. Furthermore, they are interdependent.
Dr. Paul Metzger talks about the need to recognize complexities in the collision of faith cultures that cannot be reduced to simple propositions. We have to humanize our conversations, to “approach people of different paths as people, not members of enemy armies.” It is best when there is a genuine desire to understand. The beauty of such conversations is that Jesus can be introduced not as a hammer to pound down the standing nails of wrong thinking, but through His invitation to find fulfillment in what has been lacking…
“Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
The call of Jesus is winsome, not argumentative. Ajay didn’t turn his own conversion into a point of opposition, but rather as an opportunity to tell people about Jesus, who rose from the grave in victory over death and who has the power to forgive.