Text and Context in Dialogue

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To the Editor ...

From Dr. Ramesh Khatry. Association for Biblical Education in Nepal.


I read through your first issue of VOB cover to cover, and found it interesting. The writers are obviously concerned that Nepali believers have been through much suffering that could have been avoided when they decided to follow the Lord. Your goal has been to minimize this, and ensure that each convert maintains as much link with his non-Christian family members.

In Nepal, theology regarding this issue has gone to two extremes. Although I may be justly accused of generalisations, I believe the two main bodies of Christians in Nepal, the Roman Catholics and the Protestants show this is their practices.

Following in the footsteps of Robert de Nobili, who regarded as a failure by Rome during his time, our Roman Catholic friends have even adopted Nepali 'brothers', 'sisters', and family who will grace their foreheads with 'tika' during festival of Dasain and Tihar. On the whole their teaching has been Pelagian, relying on their good works and penance for salvation. Their stand has been Universalism - Christ died for all and saves all whether the concerned puts his/her faith in Jesus or not. Stands like this ensure that persecution is minimal, but are they preferable? I have some Nepali Roman Catholic friends whose knowledge of the Bible and Christ's work is almost none, even addressing our Lord as 'bhagawan', a word that does not have too uplifting a meaning according to dictionaries. Certainly, I would do all I can to avoid their mistakes.

However, I wholeheartedly support the Nepali Roman Catholics' adoption of cremation as their last rites. We Protestants can rightly learn from them, and spend lakhs of rupees buying land to bury the dead when the money can be better used for those still living.

On the other hand, we Protestants have gone to the other extreme of regarding all of our previous life contrary to the gospel. I have been guilty of this myself. A balance would do us all a lot of good. I personally have kept festivals of Dasain, Tihar, and Parents Day as occasions of family gathering, sharing sweets, through not taking part in the worships that normally take place. I know that many Nepali Christian weddings other colours rather than white, which represents mourning in Nepali culture. Some have been taking part in human rights and political organisations in the country, in greater social work, even up to the extent of running small hospitals. These certainly represent positive steps.

However, I disagree with VOB and missiologists the Bishop Pickett and Donald MacGavern when they seem to suggest that converts can avoid ALL persecution during conversion to Jesus. For example, receive baptism as a family and not as an individual; and you will avoid the trauma! Life is not that simple. None of my extended family members have been Christians though I received the Lord in 1972. Should I have waited for all of them to receive the Lord? The suffering of Paul and the early church went through stand contrary to your best hopes. The Bible indicates that all who desire to live truly to the lord will suffer. I don't like suffering; but how can Christians who follow the Greatest Sufferer of All avoid it? So, VOB, keep your good work; but stop chasing mirages!

Voice of Bhakti welcomes interaction with its readers. If you have a comment please write to the editor at the address below. Mark Johnson, editor

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bhakti. bhakti, nom. devotion, love, loyalty