January 2024 | Conversion: Persecutor Turns Promoter

Independence Day Message

Independence Day Message

Ms. Ida Mary John

A teacher asks her class a question and promises them a reward for the correct answer. The question: “Who is the most famous man that ever lived?”

A French boy, Jean answered, ‘Napoleon’. Teacher said, ‘No’.

An Indian boy, Ranjit said, ‘Gandhi’. Teacher said,  ‘Sorry, Ranjit, wrong answer’.

Finally, a Jewish boy named Marvin said, ‘Jesus Christ!’. 

The teacher marvelled at the answer of Marvin and said, ‘Come up here. Here is your reward’. 

Having given the promised cash reward, the teacher exclaimed at Marvin and made a comment, “Marvin I was surprised to hear you mention ‘Jesus’ although you are a Jew! 

Marvin collected the money and said, “Yea, I knew in my heart that it was Moses. But business is business!”

This incident brings to mind the scripture portion Philippians 3:20 about our citizenship being  in heaven…

The term ‘colony’ comes from the Latin word colonia. However, ‘colony’ means conquered territories. The colonials all through history have taken away the wealth of the colonised. In a recent speech by Sashi Tharoor at Oxford Union, he highlighted the fact that before colonisation India had 24 % of the world wealth. But when they left India they reduced the wealth of India to less than 4%! They left India 68 years ago and we are celebrating 69th Independence Day. But even now the culture of colonisation lingers on!

From this perspective, I would like for us to re-read the letter to the Philippians. Philippi was a perfect colony of the Romans. Acts 16 tells us the background of Philippians. The first convert in Philippi was Lydia  a business woman. She is from an above middle class Jewish family. Paul couldn’t find a synagogue there. They were worshipping by a riverside. Even for the Jewish community it was not affordable to buy land for a synagogue. Only the extremely rich people could survive in a colonised society.

Shall we stop to think for a moment ? We say we are free and we have the freedom! But still we are continuing the colonial mimicry. Only the affluent and rich have a place in the Indian society now. Lands are separated for the multinationals and corporate. The poor are sidelined. Land prices are booming up. Paddy fields are vanishing! Yesterday, 25000 farmers in Uttar Pradesh were seeking the permission of the Indian President to commit suicide!! In such a  context are we really free?

Let me come to the second convert in Acts 16, the demon possessed lady. She was making a good profit for her masters.  Paul here casts out the demon that made profits for the so called ‘pujarees’ or ‘godmen’. They saw even religion through the eyes of profit and loss. Only business mattered to them. 

Religion is commercialized and politicised in the colony. Religion is manipulated for selfish gain. How can we say we enjoy real freedom when myths and fiction are imposed on us to study it as history? Our children will be forced to study that the first plastic surgery was done in India, when Ganesha’s head was replaced with an elephant’s. The culture of colonisation is still continuing. 

It is in this context that Paul gives an alternative vision of citizenship. There is no space for the other in colonisation. Paul gives the model of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11 and he calls us to consider others better than ourselves.

In 2014, one of the MBA colleges in Kerala, chose this as their annual day programme theme, “Steal or Cheat- Success is the matter!” Paul again says to the business community, Philippians 2:15, “be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as light in the world.” Success is what matters in Roman citizenship, Servanthood and responsibility is what matters in heavenly citizenship, while we as heavenly citizens, are called to cast down the evil and demonic structures of the society. Rather than being proud of a Roman citizenship, we have to follow the pattern of a heavenly citizenship bringing freedom and space for others. 

May our Lord help us bring true freedom when there is none and may we continue to live reflecting the freedom in Christ that we enjoy!

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