Missional hermeneutics in an Indian context

Author: Rabbi and Chitra Jayakaran are both completing their studies at Redcliffe College before returning to India.


As trained social workers engaged in development work among marginalised communities struggling for livelihood, dignity and justice, proclaiming Christ is a constant challenge.
Contemporary India is at cross roads, facing ‘a clash within’ between values such as democracy, pluralism, secularism and equality on the one hand, and ethnocentric homogeneity, theocracy and religious nationalism on the other. Economic globalisation, alienating people from their land, culture and livelihood, is another force heightening this struggle. Chris Wright’s missiological reflections are relevant to India, especially the discussion on theological, ethical and personal dimensions of mission.
Wright’s missional framework of the biblical narrative helps in understanding mission as God’s mission, through God’s people, in God’s world, for God’s purpose. We can participate in such a mission only in the context of an intimate relationship with Christ. Often the ‘doing’ of mission takes precedence over the ‘being’ in Christ. How many ‘souls are harvested’ becomes more important than what God is doing among the people. This has attracted different responses. Among Hindu Nationalists and secularists, it creates opposition, mistrust and hatred. Sometimes, among missionaries, it causes disunity, disillusionment and burnout as the whole burden rests on the person rather than on God. The time of ‘being’ in relationship with the Lord is taken up with ‘mission activities’. An understanding that mission is God’s develops an attitude of humility, openness to learn and sensitivity to his world, rather than the subtle arrogance of ‘I have the truth and you need to hear it’.
Ethical dimensions of mission have a huge impact on the world today. Often taking care of people’s physical needs is perceived as a means to mission. Yet, God is a God of justice, and ethics is an integral part of everything close to God’s heart. As Wright succinctly puts it, ‘There is no biblical mission without biblical ethics’. His statement ‘God’s mission to the nations is being hindered because of Israel’s continuing spiritual and ethical failure’ has significant ramifications today. It is pertinent to reflect whether the Church’s spiritual and ethical standards are hindering or hastening God’s mission. The caste system has for generations inflicted injustice in India, and it is tragic that the marginalised and the oppressed often see the Church as being partners with the oppressors (either as passive observers or as active perpetrators), rather than partners sharing their hurts and pains, and struggle for justice

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