When the Chinese Communist regime cracked down and killed hundreds of students who were protesting in the Tiananmen Square for economic and political reform in 1989, thousands escaped and sought asylum in European countries. But a group of students responded: “We have seen the worst of our nation, and we still love our Nation- is there a hope that can take us into the future? We may be imprisoned, we may die, but we love China and want more than anything to be part of its renewal, to give our lives for its future…” (Visions of Vocation by Steven Graber p.223)
It is one thing to hope for one’s own flourishing; it is something else altogether to hope for one’s nation to flourish.
When prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiled Israelites in Babylon, he wrote, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
As India celebrates its 70th Anniversary of Independence this month, it is time for us to understand the times and see our roles as Christians in this big nation of ours!
When Apostle Paul addressed the Athenians, he made an interesting statement: “From one man he (God) made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:26) So we are in India not by chance but by our Lord’s plan!
Our Lord Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. . . .In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16).
Salt and lamp, the two common commodities in every household are used by our Lord to set forth the very reason for existence of every Christian. In our social and political situations, in our families and neighborhoods, how far we have achieved this? Hundreds of mission hospitals and educational institutions started by various Christian agencies in our nation in the past are struggling for survival for want of suitable personnel and proper administration. As we struggle for survival, both fields – medical care and education – have slowly gone into the hands of others. Also, we are yet to come to terms with the explosion that happens in media and social reforms!
What can India expect from us as Christians? What can Christian students do in their campuses? Salt will prevent the fish from decaying. Salt that loses its saltiness is of no use. The challenge is direct and obvious. Firstly, we are called to penetrate and permeate non-Christian society. This demands that we permeate every campus and profession, media and public arenas with a clear commitment so that we sow seeds of Christian values wherever we study and work.
Secondly, we are called to influence and change our society so that the values and standards of the kingdom of God permeate the national culture. We can not perfect society. Not until Christ comes in glory will there be a perfect society of peace and justice. But we can definitely improve it! Let us continue to cling on to our Lord in prayer. Let us share the Gospel with passion. Let us reason with our friends on issues that concerns our nation.
Thirdly, we have to retain our Christian distinctiveness. Greater righteousness, wider love and nobler ambitions should be our motto. Let us repent of our compromises as well as of our pessimism. Our God is a living God! The Gospel is the power of salvation to everyone who believes!
Rabindranath Tagore who was very much influenced by William Carey and called Carey the father of Modern Bengal had a vision for the nation:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake!
What is our vision for India?