What Can We Learn From the History of the Church of India in the 21st Century?

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No church is perfect and none of our ancestors of the faith were flawless. As we choose to follow the same path that our ancestors walked down to know God and to make Him known, we are going to learn some of the wisdom that the people before us figured out. This is why it is so important to study history. We can learn from the successes and the failures of these people and it will help us not to make the same mistakes that they did and achieve success.

In my last blog post, I gave a brief history of the church of India. In this blog post, I am going to look at what we can learn from this history to help us go forward as the church of the 21st century.

The Importance of Family

In the movie series Fast and Furious Vin Diesel says,

“I don’t have friends, I have a family.” -Vin Diesel, ‘Fast & Furious 7’.

There is something to be learned about the importance of family. The culture of the church of India is very family and caste orientated. This communal atmosphere leads to the Gospel spreading rather quickly in families and people groups. The caste system was something that was implemented in India for most of Its history. A caste is basically the same as a class in Hindu society. In North America, we have different classes of people based on income levels. In India, you were born in a caste and you can never leave that caste. The upper castes do not hang out with the lower castes. There is tremendous separation because of this. The Gospel is all about no separation. The Bible says in Galatians “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 NIV) We become one in Christ, and if we choose to discriminate between the classes that we think are beneath us it is wrong. Even outside of a Christian world view discrimination is something that is being fought against all over the world. For the most part, the caste system is something that is being done away with within India. This is a beautiful change but it reminds us that although we do not have the caste system in North America, we still sometimes discriminate between the other classes of society in ways that can be seen as unhelpful for the growth of the Gospel. There are times that we pass a homeless person on the street and our human response is ‘go get a job’. It is easy to dismiss that person because we are not in their shoes. Maybe, they are dealing with something much deeper and they need spiritual healing in their life.

I said that the culture of India is very family and community orientated. These strong communal ties have been very helpful for the gospel expanding into this culture. The culture of North America is pretty much the opposite in this regard. We tend to be a culture that is focused on the individual instead of the community. Our identity tends to be an individualistic identity instead of a communal identity. I believe that this might be why we suffer from a great identity crisis. What would happen if we focused more on becoming the ideal community instead of the ideal individuals? I think that we could become a people that show the individuals around us what the kingdom of God is like.

Photo by Fadi Xd on Unsplash

The history of India has shown us that fights between different denominations do not lead to the fruit that we want to see in the church. Generations going forward will need to learn the art of reconciliation. Christ came to reconcile us back to him and the church can learn a good deal of what happens when we do not reconcile the fights that have happened within the church. We need to become a people of reconciliation. We may not all agree on some subjects of doctrine, but that does not mean that we cannot love each other. We need to learn to become a people of love and grace. The world needs more love and grace.

I covered a lot of information in this article about issues and what we can learn from the people and the church of a different culture. I challenge you to think deeply about the way that it would look if we actually loved each other and moved forward with the kingdom of God. What a beautiful world it would be!

Sources:

Grant, John Webster. God’s People in India. Madras: Christian Literature Society, 1965.

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