When Acceptance Is a Problem

The acceptance of fellow Christians

One monsoon evening, I was sitting with some dear brothers from our church, talking and praying to God. As I sat amidst the group, I felt quite happy that I was part of a people who had the same beliefs as I did; I was glad about the recognition I felt from respected, mature men who followed God. What a good feeling it was to be on good terms with Godly men who lived by faith!

One older brother, in particular, affected me. This man was a faithful teacher of the Bible and was an inspiration to many. He was smiling at me as an elder brother would. How reassuring! Does it not feel great to have good friends sit with you, talk and affirm you? Of course, it does, especially if you just had a bad day at work. These brothers did not yet know about the sinful choices I had made. But this reception was a good change for my emotions – I felt so much better!

No disagreements, no tensions. I would not want to disturb this Christian unity and tranquillity in any way!

The acceptance of friends

Today, a colleague walked up to my seat and greeted me. As we had a pleasant talk about what’s happening in our lives, I appreciated the fact that he asked me to join him and other friends for lunch, yet again. I could not go, but I was so happy that they all wanted me there with them. I didn’t realise it then, but I loved it when I could be an important part of a group of friends who will know that I cared for them and life could be so much fun with me around – and they realise it!

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Does it not feel great to have such approval?

The acceptance of relatives

Earlier this month my parents, my wife Sheetal’s parents and her grandparents met with us. It was lovely to have them all together, catch up on life, play with my son Abhay, go out and eat together. This was a time when differences were put aside; there were happiness and peace. I could feel that as I talked with my father, Sheetal’s mother, her grandparents and so on.

How nice it was to have that ambience! I would not have let anything take away that comfortable, peaceful environment.

It’s all dung

Some day soon, each of these and other precious relationships I have will yet again have some sort of disagreement with me. There will be a withdrawal of affirmation; that frown or that angry chat which will dismay me. I will have that sinking feeling in my stomach, yet again.

I might feel disappointed, upset that disagreements were not prevented. I will probably go through days and weeks of thoughts and re-thoughts of what someone said, what I should have said in defence and how that would have been the right answer to shut them up. I would have thought of enough Bible verses to quote in my defence, the next time anyone repeats such a thing.

When it is lost, “acceptance” seems like something you need to live peacefully, joyfully and with great purpose to your full potential. The trouble is, we look for it in all the wrong places. Some even suggest that we live for nobody’s acceptance! Had it been the old Aravind writing this, right here would have been the place to stop writing.

ID Check

But as a Christian, I have been given a new identity.

Colossians 3:12 addresses followers of Jesus, God’s children, this way –
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…”(emphasis mine)

To a church that had divided itself along the Jewish and non-Jewish backgrounds, God’s Word said – “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom15:7, emphasis mine).

But how is it that the God of the universe accepts a people highly imperfect and unlike Him? How is it that Christ-followers are holy and beloved to Him and welcomed by God almighty?

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12)

If it had not been for God’s work of making us trust in Jesus, we would have still been children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Eph 2:3). You see, our position has been changed from those who will face God’s just punishment to those who have been rescued because our elder brother, Jesus, was offered as a sacrifice by God the Father so He could own us. What kind of unbelievable love is that! And now on, because Jesus gave us His record and power of righteousness, our acceptance before God is equal to how God the Father accepted Jesus himself.

Just like Jesus was approved

That’s right. Imagine how Jesus was received after He rose victorious, defeating even death, to heaven. What a grand, loving welcome for the Son of God, as He embraced the unity of the Father and Holy Spirit again.
Same to you, oh lovers and servants of Jesus.

God’s acceptance frees you from the chains of the lesser acceptances, the cheap imitations that we run after each hour and invest in, like crazy. It frees you to obey Jesus.

I try to imagine what it would look like if the good standing I have with my colleagues, spiritual mentors, parents, wife and son were to be lost in 10 minutes from now. I imagine how it would feel like. Now, I try to imagine how it will be if my heavenly Father’s acceptance of me in Christ were to be taken away. Should I not be altogether more horrified, more appalled at the slightest hint of that possibility?

If I am not, I am living for mere earthlings’ praises and approval. I am not Christ’s bondservant (Gal 1:10). What a dreadful, eternally wasted life would that be!

It is natural to seek unity and peace with our cherished relationships. It is idolatry if we maintain peace while compromising on speaking the truth in love and other expectations that Christ places on all who are His disciples.

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If you start living trusting God the Father’s stunning acceptance of you, you will not die pleasing your loved ones.

All these years, if you have lived to enjoy others’ appreciation, now treat all that as a massive, disastrous loss. Instead, you must ask for faith in the everlasting solid fact that better than the most precious relationship you possess today, is the acceptance God the Father bestowed upon you the day Jesus became everything for you.

Which relationship on earth do you derive acceptance most from?

How do you plan to repent of it?

Beware of Your Public Prayers

Up until a few months after I had become a follower of Jesus, I had very little experience in praying in public. Growing up partly in North India and partly in the South, the average Hindu boy like me had seldom got a chance to witness public prayer as Jesus taught it or as His people faithfully practice it.

However, I had a lot of experience in performing before anyone who was watching me. I almost never missed the chance to show my peers, my sister or my relatives how well I could pray, how tight my eyes were screwed up (an indication of your awesome levels of concentration, bound to bring down answers) and on how long I could stand before finishing the various slokas or mantras.

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All this was set to change the fateful day I stepped into a small hall where some college students had gathered to pray and study the Bible. Read more

Why Movies Like ‘Neerja’ Matter

‘Neerja’ was released worldwide on February 19, 2016. I watched the thriller recently at my wife’s insistence and I did not regret it at all. It is based on a true incident – the 1986 hijacking in Karachi, Pakistan of Pan Am Flight 73 by the Libya-backed Abu Nidal Organization.

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(Spoilers ahead. If you know Neerja’s story, please keep reading!)

The movie revolves around the life of a flight attendant, Neerja Bhanot, (played by Sonam Kapoor) whose brave and timely actions saved the lives of 359 passengers and crew on board.

Good Film-Making

If the actors succeed in making you forget that what the audience are watching is only staged enactment, then they have succeeded in their job. The actors who play the terrorists, particularly the two lead characters do justice to this statement. Sonam Kapoor, too, does a great job portraying Neerja’s character.

For instance, Neerja was fondly called “Babu Moshaay”in the movie, that famous phrase from Rajesh Khanna’s hit movie “Anand”, in which Khanna plays a terminal patient with a jolly heart. It is sadly curious how Neerja’s life would also be cut off unnaturally early like one of her favourite movie characters.

The movie also has a lot of nostalgia value for those who grew up in the 80’s in urban India.

Parties in the society lawn with cool, yellow “squash”(drink)  being served as big fans blow air onto a sultry evening?

Alright!  Read more

Is it Right for Christians to Say “Bharat Mata ki Jai”?

Fifteen years ago, if someone had predicted a national controversy about the phrase “Bharat Mata ki Jai” (Victory to Mother India), I would have shelved that idea with other revolutionary and fanciful notions like “Batman exists” or that “God does not exist”.

Who would have ever thought. In a controversy that had embroiled popular political figures like Mohan Bhagwat of the RSS, Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM, Baba Ramdev of the Patanjali and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri. Devendra Fadnavis, our nation (or at least our nation’s blogosphere, Twittersphere and “newsphere”) was buzzing through with variants of the question –
Can any Indian citizen choose not to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai!” ?
If not, aren’t such people anti-national?

Should this debate concern Indian Christians?
I think it should concern anyone who is part of a religious minority in our country.

Barely a few weeks ago, Muslim youth from a Delhi Madrassa were beaten up by some men allegedly because they refused to say this potent phrase. The cops have claimed that there are conflicting versions about what the victims of the attack were asked to say – “ Victory to Mother India” or “Victory to the Mother”, which is Jai Mata Di, a worship chant for Vaishno Devi, a Hindu goddess popular in North India.

At a sadbhavana sammelan (compassion rally) in Haryana, Baba Ramdev said that but for the law, he would have chopped heads of those who refuse to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai“.

He now has a police complaint registered against him for making a hate speech. It is yet to be seen what legal action would be taken against a prominent pro-Hindutva guru in these times. But my point is – if an Indian citizen who is a Christian refuses to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, it is quite possible that he or she shall face no small repercussion in India’s tangible summer of religious intolerance.

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So, is it right for Christians to say this phrase?

3 Ways Christians could respond to the “Bharat Mata ki Jai” demand Read more

When Christians Ignore Easter for 364 Days

Quick question – what hymns or songs did you sing this Easter morning?

Though it is the most momentous Sunday in Christianity and the most incredible event on planet earth, our fickle memories can even turn Easter into a distant memory. The tears about Jesus’ death – Good Friday – have long been wiped and so has been the Sunday sermon on Jesus’ resurrection. The final busy week of March is upon most of us, employee appraisals hang like Goliath’s sword above our heads and it’s India vs. West Indies at World Cup T 20 tonight. Thank you, but move on Easter!

As the intensity of that empty tomb in Israel dwindles down to “harmless” levels, here’s an encouragement for all Christians out there.

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They forgot me on Easter!

 

Easter is more than an annual festival. It’s a quiet revolution that should rightly turn your world upside down, one day at a time.

For starters, consider what Billy Graham once said –

There is more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead than there is that Julius Caesar ever lived or that Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three.

The undeniable reality of Jesus coming alive three days after dying a bloody, brutal death on the cross is so solid a supernatural event, that I still wonder how as a knowledgeable Hindu, I was not aware of this truth for twenty-one years.

Read more

Sibling Apathy – Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Siblings just don’t know how to live with one another. At least, that’s what you would say if you tried to trace out the lives of most siblings in the Bible.

We see Cain murder Abel, Jacob tricking Esau and Joseph being sold into slavery by his own older brothers. Jesus’ biological brothers made fun of the very Son of God- we’re glad He did not zap them with thunderbolts in return. If you’ve had siblings, you would have had your (un)fair share of animosity, bruises and tears.

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But sibling apathy is another matter. This less-intensive but destructive phenomenon is easily noticeable in adults.

How many families you know have had simmering sibling conflicts leading to decades of mutual indifference? Read more

Three Churches and One Sunday Gathering?

Announcement, please!

From March 6th, 2016 A.D., Marg churches, which operate in three different geographical locations in Pune have, for a season, started meeting on Sundays at our usual Koregaon Park hall.

If you are a newcomer and you want to find us on a Sunday, come to K.P. And where do you find us through the week? In these locations.

Marg @Wanowrie.
Marg @Baner.
Marg @Kharadi.

Marg takes church life and makes it biblical! Ok, wait.

It doesn’t sound biblical. Sounds more like a setback, doesn’t it?

“What happened to the local missions?”
“What went wrong with the local Sunday church meetings?”
“Why have we joined up to be one church again?”

These are some questions that might come to mind.

I think it’s best to remind ourselves of the church leaders’ announcement and it’s purpose. And I hope this will encourage readers, especially from the three Marg churches, to set their shoulders to the plow and plow away for the Kingdom of God to come in further fullness in Pune.

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Seems like the fuel ran out!

So, What Happened?
It was a unique combination of events and trends that Read more

Child Sex Abuse: Is Your Church Ready for “Spotlight”?

‘Spotlight’ will be easily known as the movie that trumped the Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer ‘The Revenant’ for the Best Picture Oscar award this year.

It’s based on the true story of how persistent investigative journalism uncovered the scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic church in the city of Boston. Some might remember the 2002 case and the worldwide outrage that sent tremors through the Roman Catholic Church around the world and sadly revealed many more child abuse cases that had been perpetrated across decades.

But few have been impacted by the Boston scandal like Alexa MacPherson has been. Read more

The Marg Goa Trip – 2016

Why Do Our Churches Go on Vacation?

Sheetal and I have been reading this book ‘Sensing Jesus’, in which the author Zack Eswine writes about a pastor’s insights on the value system he had been noting in his church. The culture involved professionalism to an extreme where hardly any grace was shown when mistakes were made. Something the pastor said struck me as oddly familiar:

We tried recently to invite folks for dinner and then spend time together with no agenda other than to get to know each other. 85% of the folks left immediately after dinner. Many… told us that, as pastors, we were wasting their time because we gave them nothing to do but sit with people.

Eswine was pointing to our tendency to embrace what is popular and Jesus’ disdain towards living the celebrity life. But I realized that the same tendency which the pastor saw in his people in that church ran deep in my spiritual veins.

Why should we do holidays and (sinfully?) enjoy long fun trips?

Isn’t that all wrong?

I tend to go there often.

The devil is the prince of extremes. He will teach us that the absence of enjoyment and celebration is a holy life. Then, anyone who appears pious should go to Heaven. Why does God command His people to celebrate His goodness in various festivals in the Old Testament which were practiced even in the New Testament? Why does then Jesus gladly participate in a wedding in Cana (John 2:1-3)? Jesus never stopped worshipping God, the Father. Can celebration be worship?

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Arey kaha le ja rahe ho, let me celebrate!”

It’s the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in a person and His fruit that is indicative of His holiness in Christians. Along with this goes the growing hatred against and absence of sin. And God sees through fake appearances all the time. As the Marg membership handbook reminds me, it’s what or who we celebrate that matters. More than mere actions, the motives matter. Read more