Teaching obedience is very different from simply teaching about Jesus or about the Bible. Jesus’ final command to His disciples was to “teach them to obey [Him].” Racism in any form is unacceptable to God. Prejudice in any form, having a preconceived notion about another person, is anathema to the Gospel. Casteism is racism taken to the extreme. Caste teaches that, from birth, some people are simply better and more valuable people than others. It is a huge issue, and it must be dealt with in the new churches.
So, the team needed to get this right. They needed a heart change on a core Indian problem, not just verbal assent to some teaching they might give.
Only the Lord can touch a heart. The team knew the new churches needed to learn from the Bible, not from them, so they gave Sam a list of verses which address casteism, the equality of all people in God’s Kingdom, as well as who can take the Lord’s Supper. The team also prayed. Sam took these Scriptures to the leaders.
They studied God’s Word together. They discussed what God was saying regarding casteism and the Lord’s Supper. Sam did not preach or teach. He gave them the Scriptures. He prayed. He asked questions. They all looked at Scripture together. Finally, the leaders, NOT Sam, came to the conclusion that, “If I am in Jesus, I am no longer Brahmin (or whatever caste I was born into). I can either be a Brahmin, or in Jesus, but I cannot be both. If that’s the option, then I want to be in Jesus!”
Then, the leaders did something the team seldom have seen. They apologized. In front of each other, without attempting to save face or defend themselves, they admitted “I am sorry; I was wrong” to Sam AND to their disciples. Apologizing in public is a big deal anywhere, but it’s huge in Asia. Usually, apologies there are passive at best. For someone to take ownership of a wrong he has done, and then to apologize, not just to someone he considers “above” himself (Sam), but also to people who look up to one (one’s disciples was astounding. Our team was speechless. The story doesn’t end there, though.
After apologizing, the leaders intentionally gathered multiple churches with mixed caste-background people and they all took communion together!
This may sound like a small thing to us, but this is HUGE for India. Casteism is THE filter through which the vast majority of Indians think about relationships and community. God broke through their hearts and minds through His Word alone. Hebrews 12:4 says, For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart (AMP). This is truth we have always believed. Now, we have seen it in action. What joy!