Monday, April 8, 2013

Love Thy Neighbor- A Christian Perspective on Tibet

In his interview with Christianity Today, the Dalai Lama said he deeply appreciates the help of Christians in addressing the Communist oppression of Tibet. "I urge Christian brothers and sisters as spiritual brothers and sisters to study more about the situation in Tibet, especially in regard to religious freedom." He also said it would help if Christians wrote the United States government on Tibetan matters. When asked about donations of money, he mentioned that many Christians have provided immense help to the Tibetan people. "We will always be grateful," he said.

Empathy for the Dalai Lama's role in leading the Tibetan Government in Exile does not demand an uncritical endorsement of his every political move, past or present. Melvyn Goldstein, one of the leading scholars of Sino-Tibetan relations, makes this point in The Snow Lion and the Dragon. Goldstein writes, "The Dalai Lama knows intellectually that he needs more friends and supporters in Beijing, not Washington or New York City, but he finds it emotionally difficult to take appropriate actions to achieve that end."

Given the brutalization of Tibet since the Communist invasion in 1950, both Christian and Buddhist belief systems are now under threat. Christian presence in Tibet has been minimal through the centuries. This was due largely to Tibet's geographical isolation but also to hostility to a missionary presence, especially when Tibetans became followers of Christ. There have been occasional acts of violence against the small Christian communities.

The message of Christianity isn't one of God wanting to better this life for humanity. It is one of warning of a terrible fate in store for those who continue on the road of sin. We are told by God's Word that there are two deaths on the highway to Hell. The first death is when we leave the storms of this life and pass into timeless eternity. The second death is the chasm of eternal damnation. It is the terrifying justice of a holy God.

A Brief Background of Tibet

The Chinese Communist occupation of Tibet began in 1950, and the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, along with more than 100,000 Tibetans. A half century later, many Tibetans still live as exiles in India, Nepal, Bhutan and elsewhere. More than 7 million Tibetans remain inside Tibet also, where they have endured persecution and hardship. Ethnic Chinese outnumber Tibetans three to one within Tibet itself. Recent protests in Lhasa reflect years of pent-up frustration and hopelessness under Chinese rule.

All the immolators, indeed all Tibetans everywhere, absolutely want His Holiness to return to Tibet. But right now? With unprecedented security and military clampdowns throughout Tibet – and with troop strength, organizational capability, resources and technology many hundreds even thousands of time more than the PLA ever had in 1959, what would happen if the Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa and something went wrong. His chances of escaping would be absolutely nil. Furthermore there would be no armed resistance force like the 4 Rivers 6 Ranges that we had in ’59, nor the remnant of the old Tibetan army that spearheaded the Lhasa uprising and kept the Chinese forces in Lhasa pinned down for the few crucial days that allowed the Dalai Lama to escape. World opinion? What about international support for the Dalai Lama? Don’t count on it. Remember the obscene haste with which everyone rushed back to do business with China after the Tiananmen massacre.

It is vital for all Tibetans, supporters and the exile administration to appreciate the slogan “the Dalai Lama must return to Tibet” in this larger visionary spirit, and let the world know that Tibetans in Tibet are calling for a nothing less than the return of their sovereign ruler to his independent homeland. And that call is clearly not just a rhetorical one. The unbelievable courage, resolve and selfless sacrifice of the seventy self-immolators have so fundamentally changed the political dynamics in Tibet and so exponentially altered the revolutionary climate, that although His Holiness is now quite old at seventy-seven and has retired from office, it might be a good idea for his official biographer to hold off writing the final chapter on the Dalai Lama’s political legacy, at least for the next few years. 

The Cross

Someone may ask, “How can it be loving for God to be so self-exalting in the work of the cross? If He is really exalting His own glory and vindicating His own righteousness, then how is the cross really an act of love to us?”

I fear the question betrays a common secular mindset with man at the center. It assumes that, for us to be loved, God must make us the center. He must highlight our value. If our worth is not accented, then we are not loved. If our value is not the ground of the cross, then we are not esteemed. The assumption of such questioning is that the exaltation of the worth and glory of God over man is not the very essence of what God’s love for man is.

The biblical mindset, however, affirms the very opposite. The cross is the pinnacle of God’s love for sinners, not because it demonstrates the value of sinners, but because it vindicates the value of God for sinners to enjoy. God’s love for man does not consist in making man central, but in making Himself central for man. The cross does not direct man’s attention to his own vindicated worth, but to God’s vindicated righteousness.

This is love, because the only eternal happiness for man is happiness focused on the riches of God’s glory. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forever more” (Psalm 16:11). God’s self exaltation is loving, because it preserves for us and offers to us the only  all-satisfying Object of desire in the universe – the all-glorious, all-righteous God.

We are commanded to believe in a God who hears our prayers and cares deeply for us. We are instructed to believe in a God who can and will help us out of our own personal bondage, our own trials and difficulties. So, can God command us to be optimistic about life? Yes, because to believe in the God who took the Israelites out of Egypt is to believe that God can perform miracles for us, too! He expects that level of faith and commitment from us.

Jesus loved lost people. He loved spending time with them. He went to their parties. From the Gospels, it is obvious that Jesus enjoyed being with seekers far more than being with religious leaders. He was called the “friend of sinners” (see Luke 7:34). How many people would call your church that?

Jesus loved being with people and they felt it.  Even little children wanted to be around Jesus, which speaks volumes about what kind of person he was and what kind of pastor he’d be. Children instinctively seem to gravitate toward loving, accepting people.

The Lord Jesus lived an amazing life. Do you realize that Jesus never corrected, withdrew, or amended any statement He ever made? I wish I could say that! Jesus Christ never apologized for anything He ever did or said. He never sought advice from anyone, nor ever needed to ask for forgiveness.

Jesus Christ doesn’t have any strong points. For Him to have strong points, He would have to have weak points. Robert Clark has rightly given this assessment of the character of Jesus: “There was meekness without weakness, tenderness without feebleness, firmness without coarseness, love without sentimentality, holiness without sanctimoniousness, lowliness without lowness, truth without error, enthusiasm without fanaticism, passion without prejudice, heavenly mindedness without forgetfulness, carefreeness without carelessness, service without servility, self exaltation without egotism, judgment without harshness, seriousness without sombreness, mercy without softness.”

The honest reason many churches do not have a crowd is they don’t want one! They don’t like having to relate to unbelievers. Attracting a crowd of unbelievers would disturb their comfortable routine. Selfishness keeps a lot of churches from growing.

The command to love is the most repeated command in the New Testament, appearing at least fifty-five times. If we don’t love people, nothing else matters. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

The Door of Opportunity is Wide Open for us

The apostle Paul had passion and vision to reach the world with the good news about salvation. As he followed the Spirit’s leading, his determination proved effective. There’s no telling how many lives the Lord transformed through this man. And his influence is still impacting people today.

Paul knew that Jesus had instructed His followers to “make disciples of all the nations,” teaching them to observe everything He had commanded (Matt. 28:19). God led and enabled the apostle to do his part in carrying out this divine mission.

But think about life back then—that was a big task for a time when there was no mass communication. Paul could only teach, write, or train others to share the truth. In spite of limited means, however, he obeyed fervently and effectively.

God’s command is still relevant for us today. He has given us the work of telling all nations about redemption through Christ’s blood and resurrection. Compared to Paul, we have an abundance of communication capabilities—including radio, television, Internet, and cell phones—which provide easy access into countries all over the world. We could make more disciples by better utilizing these technologies. But how tragic if we get busy and fail to obey God’s command.

We stand at a critical moment in history for the church. The door of opportunity is wide open for us to share the gospel through a variety of methods. As believers, we are obligated to carry out Christ’s Great Commission. Be careful that neither busyness nor apathy keeps you from obedience.

Love of one's neighbour, kindness, and compassion--these are, I believe, the essential and universal elements preached by all religions. In spite of divergent philosophical views, we can establish harmony among all spiritual traditions on the basis of these common traits of love, kindness, and forgiveness. I always insist on this point and devote a great deal of energy to it. Most difficulties between religions come about because of people who, having failed to transform and bring peace to their own minds, not only apply their own beliefs yet are all while to impose them on others. This unfortunate behaviour can provoke serious conflicts, although I have noticed a considerable re-conciliation between the different religions, more particularly between Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity. We have actually set up a very constructive programme of exchanges between monks and believers of our two traditions.

Christianity is growing slowly in Tibet

    Reports from Tibet suggest that Evangelist missionaries have increased and diversified their long-term activities in Lhasa and other parts of Tibet because of the closer interaction between Tibetans and foreigners operating in Tibet. Seemingly undeterred by the authorities, European, US and increasingly Asian missionary organisations are involved in official and semi-official educational institutes, in business activities and increasingly in the recruitment of young, bright people for training and employment purposes. The two main centres of missionary activities appear to be Lhasa and Xining, the capital of Qinghai province at the outer north-east fringe of Tibet. 

Young people arriving from poor rural backgrounds seem to be specifically targeted by missionary activities. In the absence of secular youth schemes, they receive much sought after assistance in their schooling from the missionary agencies. Typically, recruitment happens first as a personal connection, growing into a proposal to become a Tibetan teacher or a translator, sometimes with the prospect of studies abroad. As they start to work closer with missionary agencies and their staff, however, the recruits are gradually encouraged to embrace Christianity and abandon their Buddhist beliefs. Although many Tibetans acknowledge the positive impact of foreign charitable projects, the current situation has raised suspicions of such projects in general, regardless of whether they intend to evangelise or not. It has also raised concern among Westerners operating in Tibet who find their work itself disturbed by Evangelist activities and themselves falling under suspicion.

The Churches are naturally uneasy about their relationship with a non-Christian, communist government. But, they're nevertheless thankful for the opening that communism has created, and for the communist "meddling in Tibetan Buddhist affairs" and the "signs of Tibetan Buddhism's serious erosion". "Monks would tear up such books, and our teacher had earlier warned me against the missionaries who had been visiting our school."

    Traditionally, missionaries have been distributing written and recorded materials, particularly in important centres such as Lhasa, including the large monasteries. Recently though, involvement in the establishment and funding of schools is reported both from the TAR as well as from Amdo (Qinghai and northern Tibetan areas of Sichuan). Missionary activities in Tibet seem to remain at a relatively rudimentary stage, and organisations active in evangelical missions themselves admit that they have to tread 'carefully', though the future aims are often clear. 


It is only when I share life's experiences with others that I can enjoy them or endure them to the greatest advantage. 

This is what the early Christians did. They learned quickly that survival would go hand-in-hand with "fellowship." 

You see, having a relationship calls for being in fellowship with others, and that cannot be done very easily at arm's length. It implies getting in touch, feeling the hurts, being an instrument of encouragement and healing.

Fences must come down. 

Masks need to come off. 

Welcome signs need to be hung outside the door.

Keys to the locks in our lives must be duplicated and distributed. 

Bridges need to be lowered that allow others to cross the moat and then share our joys and our sorrows.

We stand united with Tibetans. Today, Tomorrow, Forever.


For the Gospel,

Servant of the Lord

Dr.Raj Kosaraju

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