Thursday, January 7, 2010

“It Really Works, You Should Try It”

Recently on an Indian train, I shared a compartment with 7 Hindus on a pilgrimage to South India. One man was on his 17th annual trip! They traverse India carrying a food offering. They trek up the mountain, wait to make their offering, and then walk down and board the train for home.

They were nice people. They had offered me several kinds of homemade food earlier. I realized the food had probably been dedicated to the idol they were going to venerate. Before taking it, I pondered what to do. If I refused the food, they might feel slighted. Would I be compromising by eating it? Seconds later I decided to be friendly and eat. I said a quick prayer to Jesus, “Lord, bless this food.” I personally felt the liberty to eat what the New Testament calls “food offered to idols”. I would not advise others to do it. Many Christians and Muslims in India would have said “no.”

Paul the Apostle spoke about this.

“But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

For if someone sees you, who have knowledge, dining in an idol's temple, will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?

For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.”

Please note two things in this passage. First, we are warned against placing a “stumbling block” before the one whose conscience is “weak.” Secondly, if I do that, I am sinning against that person’s conscience and against Christ. This is the principle. Paul concludes that to avoid making someone stumble, he will never do it again. Never!

Holy Yoga

Switching to a more common practice, today many “Christian” yoga establishments thrive. They sport such names as “Breath of Life Yoga,” “Yoga Devotion,” “Holy Yoga Ministries,” “Yahweh Yoga,” and one particularly sad one, “Saffron & Crimson,” – saffron being the color that Hinduism is identified with, and crimson, I am guessing, meaning Christ’s blood.

Because it is clearly controversial, yoga falls into the same category as eating food offered to idols. While it is a practice that some Christians obviously feel free to do, it also holds high probability to cause others to stumble by violating their conscience. Practicing aerobics or going to a gym, recognized as non-religious exercise regimens, eliminates this danger, does it not?

Yes, yoga is controversial. First, it is definitely a page out of Hinduism. Yoga (with its postures, breathing exercises, and meditation or “relaxation”) is meant to bring realization of the oneness of the “yogi” with God. This is pantheism. It is not biblical teaching. Says Swami Param, “All of yoga is Hinduism.”[2] We westerners try to neatly divorce the exercise from the philosophy behind it, and walk on dangerous ground by doing so.

Secondly, the breathing exercises are to release spiritual energy. Says one yoga website, “Proper breathing is to … control Prana or the vital life energy.”[3] The Sanskrit word “pranayama,” literally means to “lengthen or regulate the life-force.” One "Christian yogi” writes, “In the same way that measured breathing is essential to yoga, the Spirit—which in both biblical Greek and Hebrew also means breath—is indispensable to my soul. Breathe in. Breathe out. Holy Spirit in. Anything that's not from God out.”[4] I’m sorry, but where did Jesus say we deal with evil by breathing it out? That is not a Christian concept.

Thirdly is the stumbling block factor. I fear that those who say, “Yoga works for me, it totally reduced my pain,” will encourage others to try it. Some will delve further into Hindu ideas. That is the nature of Hinduism. If it gets its foot in the door, it tends to push in and occupy. Unfortunately, today many follow anything that works.

Yoga in Perspective

I wonder what Paul would say if gushing friends who attended classes at Yoga With A Difference said, “It really works, you should try it!” I’m speculating, but I think he might answer them “if doing yoga and telling others about it causes my brother to stumble, I will never do yoga again…”

I remember meeting Mother Teresa once when I lived in Kolkata. Two girls said to her, “O mother, we used to be Catholics, but now we’re in a Buddhist monastery.” She answered them with a question, “Wasn’t Jesus enough for you?”

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Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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