The task of clearly sharing the “evangel” (gospel) among Thai people is a difficult task. We found this out once again during a medical outreach a couple of weeks ago. Some of the evangelists were telling people to stop giving alms to the monks and to stop going to the temple. One of the ladies who was told this seemed very interested in the gospel…until these prohibitions.
After all, it is a big step for someone to quit the activities they have always done, even before believing the gospel. These things are seen as the most important merit-making religious activities. She likely thought, why would I all of a sudden do that?
But then, some other evangelists from Isaan told the lady not to worry about those issues now. They allowed here to still go to the temple and give alms. With this, the lady again showed an interest in learning more about the gospel.
But what about these evangelists? Are they promoting syncretism? I don’t think so. However, they have found that until someone really gets to know Jesus, they will write off the gospel as “foreign religion” and they will not take time to hear the gospel. And if it’s just another “foreign religion,” they’d rather stick to their own religion.
Since that encounter, we have found that this lady is actually very interested in the fact that Jesus died for our sins. She is amazed by the fact that she could be free from sin and certain of salvation. Fortunately, she still wants to receive us and hear more about the gospel. We pray that when she gets to know Jesus, she will learn from Him that she can stop relying on a lot of things which have been so important for her until now.
We are learning that we had better not force people to all of a sudden give up their whole way of thinking and acting. We proclaim to them that Jesus is alive and that He saves. And when they really get to know Him, the Spirit can teach these people from within. Then, when they give up old things, they do so freely, because Jesus has begun teaching them from within.