Christianity (along with Islam and Jews) is (rightly) criticized by many as the religion of ‘book’ than ‘intuition’. However, like we Hindus, most of them, particularly among the Christians don’t have personal and deep knowledge about their scripture. Well, I don’t have any experience with Muslims and Jews, so I have to limit my comments only with Christians based on my personal experience with many of them.
When Arun, a Christian young man came to see me yesterday (November 21st, 2009) along with Vishal and Ebi, after some common talk, when our topic turned about doing seva, he asked, ‘what do you think when Jesus asked us to turn another cheek when we were hit on one side, give the inner garment when outer coat was asked’? In response I said:
Every scripture have their idealism. So here too what the bible says is one such idealism. In fact most of the commands in Sermon on the Mount are given to keep them as our ideal. However, there is practical side of it. Because, often we reject such Great commands (like the maha-vakyas in Hinduism) by saying that they are idealism and all cannot live up to it. But if we see the life of the Lord, several times we get clear answer even for that idealism. When it comes to our personal loss and sacrifice, then we have to implement them as they assure our progress in our spiritual life. Whereas when it affects others, particularly to whom we are committed with responsibility, then we cannot strictly implement those Commands.
For example, if Pakistan demands Kashmir, then we cannot say ‘why Kashmir alone, take even Punjab.’ If some one seeks our help in their need, we cannot give them more at the cost of the need of our own family people. But we can learn to keep a balance from the life of the Lord Himself. Though the context of these incidents is completely difference yet they show us some guidance in such crucial issues. When the Lord was falsely accused and charged and punished, he refused to fight back and went to that extra mile. But when He was forced to give justice to the woman caught in adultery, he turned the table against his opponents. In this story their aim is not to punish that woman but trap the Lord. In the same way, Jesus chased the money changers and animal sellers from the outer courtyard of the temple by whipping them away. Though they in fact are helping people coming from far off place to the give temple tax and buy animal for sacrifice, yet as they occupied the place which was assigned for the non-Jews, Jesus has to chase them from that place. But when he was whipped, he never resisted.
So in all such demands to ‘turn the other cheek’ we should go to the extra mile if it incurs only our personal loss and sacrifice. Whereas if it will affect others interest then we should keep a balance. But even here the answer is not that much simple and in such a short article we cannot discuss more.
Finally, not to criticize but to point out the fact I have to share one more thing. We Hindus have many scriptures and we can be excused for not knowing so many details about them. But Christians have only one Scripture, but it really surprises me to know that most of them even do not know certain basic teaching in proper context of the texts. For example, when I asked Arun and Ebi, why Jesus chased the money changers while they were actually helping the pilgrims coming from far off places, they said that they don’t know.
One reason for this could be that in the churches they preach some sermons but never think about giving proper ‘teaching’ about their scriptures. Then lay people also, listen to them as part of their religious ritual not showing personal interest to learn about their scripture.
I think this is a common problem in every religion. Of course exceptions are always there in every issue. But in most cases people are often hear lot of preaching and less teaching about their scriptures. But we common people to understand and implement the demands of our respective scripture should try to learn them with properly considering all the context and backgrounds.
Dayanand Bharati, Gurukulam, November 22, 2009.