Reaching the Jains with the Gospel

June 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Key challenges in reaching the Jains with the gospel are that the Jains are not of one mind, either in lifestyles or in religious beliefs. No ultimate authority exists for the Jain community. Many Karnataka Jains are wealthy, educated and of high caste. The Jains maintain very close family relations that are related to their religious beliefs. Many of the marriage and social customs follow those of the greater Indian society. Other challenges are the close knit community and social structure, the emphasis of philosophy over religion and the cross. According to Dr. Martin’s lecture other challenges that have been observed are that Jains seem very open to speaking of other religions. However, they make it clear that a change of religion would not be acceptable to them. Of these challenges I consider the greatest challenge in reaching the Jains with the gospel relates to the matter of authority (Karnataka Missions Network, 31).

No source of absolute authority exists in the Jain religion, however this claim is exactly what the Bible maintains regarding itself. Gospel proclamation among the Jains will constantly struggle with this authority issue. In regards to the authority challenge I would also suspect that accepting God’s redemptive work being accomplished through the sacrificial death of Christ will prove to be an enormous challenge to the Jain mindset (KMN, 31). Jains not only practice non-violence toward all animals, but to all living matter. However, the Jains do have a concept of doing the greater good, that is, it is permissible to harm another being in order to attain a greater good . They will build temples that require digging and possibly killing underground life. They permit injury to humans if that injury is inflicted while defending one’s family or a temple (KMN, 15). This greater good concept may provide a gospel bridge to the Jains in relation to Jesus stating “Tear down this temple, and I’ll rebuild it in three days.” John 2:19.

This challenge must be addressed using the various strategies to reach the Jains that was discussed in the lecture. Fervent and strategic prayer encompassing and leading up to a missionary connecting with the Jain community. Cultivating relationships in the community to build social capital with a long-term perspective and authentic investment in the community. Pursuing an indigenous lifestyle in dress, diet and no use of leather or fur. Due to the value placed on non-violence in the Jain community, discerning how to be present the overall story of the cross in a manner that is least offensive culturally. Seeking bicultural or expat Jains in the States for fact-finding or feedback or a church in Bangalore to partner with in his efforts to evangelize and gain influence among the Jains. Finally, as opposed to many lifetimes of ridding oneself of karma, the Christian is saved in only one lifetime. Salvation through faith, not works!

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