SEPTEMBER 2020

GOD IN THE MARKET PLACE

The term ‘marketplace’ is used to mean ‘the public square’ in the widest sense. That is, I am not thinking only of ‘the market’ in a purely economic sense, but the whole world of work – trade, professions, law, government, education, industry – wherever human beings engage together in productive projects. The Old Testament word was ‘the gate’ – the public square where people met and did their business together, of whatever kind.

Is God interested in the marketplace? Many Christians seem to operate on the everyday assumption that He is not. Or at least, that God is not interested in the marketplace for its own sake, as distinct from interested in it as a context for evangelism. God, it would seem, cares about the Church and its affairs, about getting people to heaven, not about how society and its public places are conducted on earth. The result can be a rather dichotomized Christian life in which we have to invest most of the time that matters (our working lives) in a place and a task that we think does not matter to God, while struggling to find opportunities to give some left-over time to the only thing we think does matter to God—evangelism. Yet the Bible clearly and comprehensively, in both Testaments, portrays God as intensely interested in the human market place—interested, involved, and in charge.

Work is God’s idea. Genesis chapters 1 and 2 give us our first picture of the Biblical God as a worker – thinking, choosing, planning, executing, evaluating. So when God decided to create humankind in the image and likeness of God, what else could humans be but workers, reflecting in their working lives something of the nature of God? Specifically, God laid upon human beings the task of ruling the earth (Genesis 1), and of serving and keeping it (Genesis 2). This enormous task required not only the complementarity of our male-female gender identities, for mutual help, but also implies some other fundamental economic and eco-logical dimensions to human life.

God has given us a plan with vast diversity of resources scattered all over its surface. There is, therefore, a natural necessity for trade and exchange between groups living in different places, to meet common needs. That task in turn necessitates economic relationships, and so there is the need for fairness and justice through-out the social and economic realms. There needs to be justice both in the sharing of the raw resources with which we work, and in the distribution of the products of our work. The biblical witness is that all of this great human endeavor is part of God’s intention for human life on earth. Work itself is of the essence of our human nature. We were created to be workers, like God, the Worker.

According to the Bible, God is the independent judge of all that goes on in the marketplace. The Old Testament speaks repeatedly of Yahweh as the God who sees and knows and evaluates. This is true in the most universal sense, and of every individual (Psalm 33:13-15).

But it is specifically true of the public square. Israel was reminded repeatedly that God calls for justice ‘in the gate’, which is in contemporary terms, the marketplace (Amos 5:12-15). Further-more, God hears the kind of talk that would go on either in the hidden places of the greedy heart, or in the confidence of a business deal. Such exploitative talk is condemned by the prophet (Amos 8:4-7). And for those who think that God is confined to his temple and sees only what goes on in religious observance, comes the shock that he has been watching what goes on the rest of the week in public (Jer. 7:9-11).

A common Christian assumption is that all that happens here on earth is nothing more than temporary and transient. Life here is nothing more than the vestibule for eternity, so it doesn’t really matter very much. To this negative comparison is added the idea, drawn from a mistaken interpretation of the language of 2 Peter 2, that we are headed for total obliteration of the whole earth and indeed of all the physical creation. With such a prospect, what eternal value can possibly attach to the work we do in the world’s marketplace here and now?

But the Bible presents a very different prospect. God plans to redeem all that He has made, and included within that will be the redemption of all that we have made with what God first made. Isaiah 65:17-25 is a glorious portrayal of the new creation – a new heaven and a new earth. It looks forward to human life that is no longer subject to weariness and decay; in which there will be fulfilment in family and work; in which the curses of frustration and injustice will be gone for ever; in which there will be close and joyful fellowship with God; and in which there will be environmental harmony and safety. The whole of human life, private, family and public, will be redeemed and restored to God-glorifying productiveness.

All human history, then, which takes place in the marketplace of human public interaction, will be redeemed and fulfilled in the new creation – not just abandoned or destroyed. All human work, then, in that marketplace, has its own value and eternal significance, not just because of our understanding of creation and the mandate it laid upon us, but also because of the new creation and the eschatological hope it sets before us. With such a hope, we can heartily follow Paul’s exhortation, knowing that ‘the work of the Lord’ does not mean just ‘religious’ work, but any work done for as unto the Lord, which includes even the manual labour of slaves: Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

The twin sayings of Jesus about being salt and light in the world (Mt. 5:13-16) are still crucial insights into what it means to follow Jesus in the Market Place. Jesus applies these metaphors explicitly to practical living, not merely religious devotion or evangelistic witness. As a Bible Society, along with Translation, Production and Distribution of Scripture, Scripture Engagement is an important area we work on. Realising that God is in the Market Place and of the Market Place, Bible Society of India engages herself in relating the Word to the World by identifying with the suffering humanity and also by encouraging the readers of the Bible to be good stewards of God’s Creation by caring for the environment and by being just and ethically upright in the Market Place in our different spheres of work, depicting clearly and convincingly that God is in the Market Place .

 

Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko
General Secretary
Bible Society of India

Read more

Tribal And Adivasi Day

By following the UN Indigenous Day, i.e. August 9, on 17 September 2010, during the Annual General Body Meeting of National Council of Churches in India in Bangalore, for the first time announced observance of the NCCI-Tribal and Adivasi Sunday. NCCI, therefore, urges and requests constituent members to annually observe every Sunday closest to 9 August as NCCI Tribal and Adivasi Sunday and the date to be marked in the Church calendar and diary.

During this COVID-19 pandemic across the globe in order to have a better understanding of the life situation of the Tribal and Adivasi communities in India and to have a common form of worship for this special day, the Bible Society of India as member of the National Council of Churches in India also celebrated the NCCI TRIBAL & ADIVASI DAY under the Theme “COVID19 AND RECLAIMING OUR INDIGENOUS HERITAGE” on 7th August 2020 Friday in all its offices spread across the nation. Covid-19 has exposed our vulnerability and inadequacies. The vulnerability of humans is that: richness, power, authority none could save a person from being infected by the virus.

In India’s Tribal and Adivasi areas, basic health care facilities are extremely poor. Besides, a lack of key information and awareness to effectively deal with outbreaks further add fuel to the fire. During this pandemic the Tribal and Adivasi became more vulnerable because they lack access to effective monitoring and early warning systems. Lives of an Adivasi and Tribal will not be the same post Covid-19 pandemic. Challenges await, lurking behind the idea of segregation, unemployment, health and hygiene, education and so on.

The nationwide lock-down has affected the economy of India’s Tribal and Adivasi communities living in and around the forests of India, as they depend highly on the forests for food, shelter, medicines and financial income. While the tradition and cultures of the Adivasi and Tribal people consider nature as the very centre of all existence, today in the name of development they are deprived of their inheritance and displaced from their native places, and sole natural resources of their livelihood are exploited and taken away from them.

They have been denied inherent rights and dignity by a mainstream society that refuses to hear their pleas. The current lock-down situation aggravates their inability to influence government workers and protest against the exploiters making them less visible and more vulnerable. However the cultural heritage of communiterian life becomes a great source of their strength in their fight against Covid-19. In spite of poor healthcare facilities – care, love and concern for each other become the great source of strength that comfort and prevent the community from major disaster with a minimum death tolls compared to the National records.

ROLE OF BSI AND THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY:

In such uncertain times, societal upheaval, the threat of poverty, sickness, and death all these naturally led to fear. In situations like these one of the best things we can do is remember just how great, strong and mighty, faithful, and compassionate our God truly is. Corona must have affected many, yet in the midst of such troubles let our fortitude, faith, and hope in God’s unwavering assurance give us the encouragement to find a cause of glorifying God. The liberating message is that struggles and difficulties are part of our life in the present situation with Covid-19, with many challenging news reports around us.

What The Bible Society of India, the Christian Community, and the Church can do is to become innovative by initiating recovery programs, emphasi ze sustainability, and engage with the people affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic and serve as a beacon of hope and compassion for the world.

Read more

OBSERVANCE OF NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER

The Bible Society of India joined the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) by observing National Day of Prayer across India to earnestly intercede for our country, our leaders and our fellow citizens. The National Day of Prayer is an ecumenical movement, freely owned by all, and it is a call to unity for strengthening our Christian witness and service for the World. The Bible Society of India had a very meaningful worship in the Central Office in Bangalore as well as in all our Auxiliary offices across India on August 14, 2020, at 9 am.

Read more

2008 Kandhamal violence

The 2008 Kandhamal violence refers to violence between groups led by the Sangh Parivar, and Christians in the Kandhamal district of Orissa, India, in August 2008 after the murder of the Hindu monk Lakshmanananda Saraswati.

Tensions reportedly started with violent incidents over Christmas 2007 which resulted in the burning of over 100 Churches and Church institutions, including hostels, convents, and over 700 houses. Three persons were also killed during the three days after Christmas. The Hindutva groups and activists of the Kui Samaj were mostly involved in the 2007 attacks.

The intensity of violence began after the murder of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati on 23 August by Maoists. According to the government reports the violence resulted in at least 39 people killed, all Christians. More than 395 Churches were vandalized or burnt down, over 5,600 houses plundered or burnt down, over 600 villages ransacked and more than 54,000 people left homeless. Reports put the death toll at nearly 100 and suggested more than 40 women were sexually assaulted. Many Christians were forced to convert to Hinduism under threat of violence This violence was led by the Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the VHP.

As we commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Kandhamal Day, we remember the dreaded series of violence that took place and the death of many Christians from the Tribal and Dalit communities. The politicization of faith, community, economic and the nation’s cold responses were some of the reasons why we commemorate the Kandhamal Day with pain. This is to say, this kind of instigated violence and hatred that had caused many innocent lives should never happen again in our society. In the midst of pain, we are thankful to all those who are working for the reconciliation and re-establishment of communities in Kandhamal, Phulbani district of Odhisa. May God continue to look upon and heal those who are yet to recover from this traumatic violence.

Read more

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY, A FULL BIBLE HAS BEEN TRANSLATED INTO 700 LANGUAGES GLOBALLY

In August 2020, the number of languages with full Bible translations hit 700 for the first tim e. We celebrate that more than 5.7 billion people—or around 80 percent of the global population—now have the full Bible in thei r heart language. At this milestone moment, we thank God for the promise He makes in Isaiah 55:11—”that as His Word goes forth, it will accomplish His purposes.”

Source: American Bible Society

BUY BIBLES ONLINE

Read more