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How far should you go to fit in?

by Melissa Chang |

Contextualization in Missions, Hindu Contextualization, India

 Puja ceremony

When in a  new culture, there is a great struggle to figure out how much of that culture to fit into without “watering down” what it means to truly follow Jesus. Where do you draw the line? 

I myself had a struggle with this issue on a recent trip to India with a devout Hindu family. I wanted to respect them and find a place of connection with them. I was hoping to do this with as much respect and common ground as possible while staying true to my own beliefs. I certainly didn’t want to offend them, but I was hoping to somehow talk to them about my own beliefs. But, once I got there and was faced with their Hindu ceremonies, the issue of where to draw the lines in my own life became very real to me.

ganges offering

Before you read the examples, you should also note that I don’t really know that much about the Hindu religion, so I was at even more of a loss.

-To wash away their sins, they would bathe in the Ganges river. That one was easy for me. I was already washed in the blood of Jesus, so I didn’t need my sins washed away.

-But what about placing gifts of flowers onto the river to send their prayers to their God? I mean, it was very moving and beautiful. Couldn’t I place an offering to send down the river as a symbol of my prayer to my God? Well, I decided not to because I didn’t really understand the meaning of the ceremony and didn’t want make my hosts mistakenly think I was Hindu. So, I gracefully bowed out.

-Another situation I faced was that every morning my hosts would pray in the morning in front of a small alter in their home, and then put some ashes on my head so I would be protected all day. When they did this they would kiss my cheek and tell me they loved me. I decided that it was an expression of their love for me so I just smiled and said Thanks.

-After going to a temple to pray and make an offering they brought out some candy, that was like a blessing from their gods, as far as I could tell. This time I just told them that I followed a different God and didn’t want to make Him jealous.

Ganges Bathing

So, did I do the right things? I am sure I made many mistakes. However, these questions are really worth considering, especially when figuring out how to portray the basics of following Jesus to those of a different culture. I think good advice would be to research and learn from those that have experience in all these things, and look to God Himself to guide you.

Offering photo by judepics
Bathing photo by A. www.viajar24h.com 
Puja ceremony by
orange tuesday  

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