One of the coolest things I’ve been able to experience here is how good Truthseekers is at contextualization. Over and over I have been impressed at the way they have presented the good news of the kingdom.

For example, on Sunday I traveled with Sunil et al. to visit a church made up primarily of Dalits (“untouchables”) and Shudras (lower-caste). After the service, most of the congregation joined us in the fellowship hall to hear a presentation from Truthseekers.

Yesterday, this lower-caste man was "set free" from the bonds of Brahmanism after Sunil shared with him the good news of the kingdom.

Yesterday, this lower-caste man was "set free" from the bonds of Brahmanism after Sunil shared with him the good news of the kingdom.

The presentation focused mainly on how the kingdom of God does away with caste once and for all. At the end of all the sermons, symbolic rituals (spreading flower petals, etc.) and Hindi worship, the congregation sat awestruck. They had never heard this message before!

Why was it so effective? Because Sunil spoke their language. He did not use common Western terminology or the standard Hindi translation of the Bible, which is geared towards a Brahmin (upper caste) audience. He used an entirely new set of terms and symbols that the oppressed lower-castes can relate to.

First of all, when speaking of Jesus, Sunil almost always refers to him as Baliraja – “The Sacrificed King.” Baliraja is a character from a popular peasant myth in south-west India. According to tradition, he was a benevolent king who ruled a casteless and prosperous kingdom.

In the story, Baliraja was betrayed and killed by a Brahmin, but is eagerly expected to return someday. In fact, there is still a Marathi saying, ida pida javo, Balica rajya yevo. “Let troubles and sorrows go and the kingdom of Bali come.”

Sunil smashing open a coconut for communion.

Sunil smashing open a coconut for communion.

So what is Sunil’s message? Simply that the kingdom of Baliraja has come! The son of God, Jesus Christ is Baliraja. And he has returned to the world to bring his kingdom once more.

To emphasize this good news, Truthseekers has implemented a new take on communion. Instead of dipping wafers in cups of grape juice (what is that, anyway???), they take the flesh and milk of a coconut as the body and blood. Sunil takes a hammer and smashes open the coconut, symbolizing the end of caste and the breaking in of the kingdom. Wow.

Some might be a bit skeptical at this approach. But let me tell you, never in my life have I seen so many people from so many different religious backgrounds so comfortable together. On any given day in the office there might be Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Brahmins and Dalits sitting at the same table, conspiring to bring in the kingdom of Baliraja.

I think they’ll be ok without the wafers…

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About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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Comments

  1. David Hartman said... 

    Reply

    March 9th, 2011 at 11:40 am  

    This is such a beautiful story of the King. It never ceases to amaze me when I hear how God has embedded redemptive analogies of himself in different cultures. It shows that the King and His kingdom is not a story from the West, but it is a reality that is indigenous to every culture! Every culture is redeemable!

    I first learned about using stories from cultures to explain the kingdom of God in an article in an article by Don Richardson in a course called “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”. (I highly recommend the course, which can be found all over the U.S. in different churches.) Richardson calls this “Redemptive Analogies”, and he talks about them in his books “Peace Child” and “Eternity in Their Hearts”. (I haven’t read them, but the stories in his article were amazing and they are in the books!) Since reading that article and others, I started realizing that Jesus was all about redemptive analogies! We call them parables! Then you can find the same in Acts, most notably with Paul’s speech to the Athenians.

    Isn’t this the heart of the gospel? The gospel is meant to be shared in a simple way that can easily be understood by all who will listen.

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