St Stephens vandalism: A Christian’s musings
American pastor John Piper said of the New Testament that it is a ‘go tell’ religion, unlike the Old Testament, which is a ‘come see’ religion. Remember the Queen of Sheba coming to see the glory of King Solomon’s wealth and splendor? The Old Testament is a book that tells the story of a God who strives to keep His chosen people separate and holy. The wrath of God is kept at bay through animal sacrifices, the ritual of circumcision, dietary restrictions and obedience of the Law, or the commandments given to Moses at Sinai. But these are all shadows, says Piper, that were swept away at Christmas, when the Light of the World arrived on earth, and through the blood of His sacrifice, removed the veil of the Tabernacle. Jesus Christ is described as our ‘High Priest’ who gives everyone who draws near Him access to God. You no longer need to be a Levi, or an Old Testament priest, to approach the Holy of Holies trembling with fear. You can go boldly before Him, and call Him ‘Abba, father.’
This means that we, who are Christians, no longer need to distinguish between ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ food, or undergo circumcision, because God promises to circumcise our hearts with the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why no mention is made in the New Testament of rituals or forms of worship. Everything that we do can be an act of worship when we do it to honour God and bring glory to Him, not to us. Right-wing elements can vandalise all the churches of India and they will still be unable to snuff out Christianity from the land. Because it is a spirit-wrought internal religion, not a ritualistic external one. The external, in Christianity, is a manifestation of the internal—namely, loving others with the love of Christ, not the love that you try to manufacture with your own willpower.
In the first century AD in Rome, the Romans who worshipped their gods for their power and their ability to grant them what they wanted, were perplexed by the strange sect of people called Christians, who approached the lions in the gladiatorial arenas that were soon going to devour them, with their arms wide open and a song on their lips. Christians are those who live to do God’s will, not seek for ways to make Him do our will. If Christianity was a man-made religion, it would have been extinguished under the fire of Roman wrath in the first century itself.
Remember the scene in Jerusalem in the book of Acts when Peter was brought before the council for preaching in the temple despite being warned not to? “We must obey God and not men,” was what Peter said, adding that he and the apostles were witnesses to Jesus’s death and resurrection. The members of the council were enraged and wanted to kill Peter. But one member named Gamaliel stood up and reminded them of all the fake prophets who had come before Jesus and whose followers were scattered after their death. “So in the present case I tell you,” he said. “keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God (Acts 5: 38 and 39).”
Christianity survived for 2,000 years after that, and continues to thrive. What but God’s plan must it have been?
People in India are increasingly growing scared of Hindu fundamentalism and persecution of the minorities. Right wing elements are vandalising college chapels and trying to polarise people in the name of religion. BJP leaders like B.S. Yeddyurappa are talking about forcefully tying up people’s hands and legs and bringing them to vote for the party. Words like ‘gau rakshak’ and ‘love jihad’ have become part of the Indian vocabulary. But while they might beat us up or destroy our institutions, they will not be able to drive out our God from our hearts. Christians we are and Christians we will be. As C.S. Lewis once said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”