I have come to the close of another big project. Every time it’s like giving a sigh of relief. What am I talking about? The translation of three months of articles for preachers. One of them had an interesting story I’d like to share with you.
You might have heard about the Indian missionary evangelist Sadhu Sundar Singh, that set out on a journey preaching the Gospel wearing a turban and a yellow robe, typical of the Hindu sadhus. He viewed himself as a Christian sadhu rather than Hindu. He realized Christianity could not penetrate India unless it was in an Indian way.
This was some hundred years ago, in a period of ineffective communication of the Gospel in colonial India. One time Sundar Singh addressed some missionaries telling them a story.
There was this high-caste Hindu traveling by train in the heat of the summer. The man was about to be overcome by the heat and someone brought him a cup of water to revive him.
Despite his condition, the man rejected the water. Why? Because the cup belonged to a person of another caste. But then they discovered that the man had his own cup in the seat beside him. The kindly person helping him out rushed back to the faucet, filled his cup, and offered it to him.
This time the traveler received it with gratitude.
Sundar Singh explained to the missionaries that they had been offering the Water of Life to the people of India in a foreign cup. He said to them that if they would offer it to them in their own cup, they might be much more likely to accept it.
That struck a chord in my heart. I remember as a young missionary, having grown up in Latin America, I had a desire to offer the Gospel in a format fit for the people I worked with.
We’d have story-papers, teaching lessons, tracts, book, etc. and all of it came from a culture very different from the people I worked with. I especially longed to publish story-papers for children with photos depicting their culture. God allowed me to do that in the 80’s. I still have the same desire to publish materials without cultural bias.
How would you feel if the Gospel was handed you in a Japanese cup? Or a Zimbabwean cup? Or even in a Swedish cup? We each understand our culture and we need to hear the Gospel in a culturally relevant way.
Let’s take this to a very simple, personal level. The people around us need to be served in a cup that fits them. My neighbor across the street needs a totally different cup then those at my right and my left.
This is my WWJD cup. Jesus is the expert in offering the right cup.
- For the woman at the well he was the Living Water
- For the fishermen at Galilee he was the opportunity to be fishers of men
- For the shepherds he was the Good Shepherd
- For the hungry multitudes he was the Bread of Life
- For the blind and crippled he was the Healer
- For the demon-possessed he was the Liberator
- For the woman caught in the act of adultery he was the Forgiver
Jesus will help us find the right cup for the right occasion.