by here)on May 24, 2013 – (originally posted
by Acharaporn Limpanapirak (Gift)
(I mentioned the other day that our friend Gift is visiting from Thailand. Gift is a businesswoman and the wife of a pastor in Bangkok. I asked her if she would like to write a guest post for LifeVesting readers, maybe about her experience with Jesus Christ and what Thai Christian culture is about. She graciously agreed – I think you’ll find below that the challenges Christians encounter there are similar to some we encounter here.)
I have been a Christian in name for more than half of my life, but for some time I never realized that I had never known my LORD, Christ Jesus.
It happened 13 years ago at my previous church in Bangkok where my husband, Pi Dui, served as a deputy pastor. A certain man came to talk with Pi Dui and asked an interesting question
“Arjan (Pastor) Dui, I would like to know Jesus. Could you please tell me how to do so?”
When I heard this, it was as if someone hit me on the head. This question had confused me for a while. This guy came from a rural part in Isaan, in the Northeast of Thailand. Few people there have any opportunities to go to school, and they are incapable of reading or writing (illiterate). But, WOW, he wanted to know Jesus, with a very simple faith like a child, as Jesus told in the Bible. Here I had been a “Christian” more than 20 years, and I had not ever a desire like this. I felt so ashamed.
On the next coming day, I was still remembering that question and it bothered me all the time, so I decided to talk to Pi Dui. I asked him “Would you mind if I want to know Jesus too? Could you please tell me how to know Him?
He responded with a smile. “Absolutely. I have prayed for you to have this desire for long time. This kind of relationship is a very personal thing. You need to do it yourself – no one can do it for you, etc.”
One thing I can tell you is that my life has never been the same from that day.
Before going any further, let me give you some ideas about the Christian life from Thai cultural perspective.
Coming from a Buddhist background, we are taught that all we needed to do to go to heaven when we die is doing good (self-depending). Beside this belief, there is one more important thing – we have a strong belief in ghosts, which we consider as gods (idols). We are all in their influence so that we try to please a god or ghost in every way we live. It doesn’t matter you are a Christian or not, the influence of this belief affects the way we live and the way we think in some ways, both consciously or unconsciously. Most Thai Christians, from my perspective, have never realized this truth. While many pastors recognize this problem, they are hesitant to confront it.
This parallel with Buddhist belief becomes even more of an influence when we realize that many professing Christians continued to live their lives without having a personal relationship with our LORD, Christ Jesus or submitting their lives to Him.
To give you more perspective about Thai Christian behavior, I would like to separate Thai Christians into two types, viewing them in light of my own experience.
1. Those who became Christians 20 or 30 years ago. These tend to be more traditional. If we separated this group by geography, they may be viewed as a Bangkokian (urban) and a rural population. Actually it doesn’t matter where they live, the differences are only external, but inside their faith or belief is not all that different. We merely understand the truth in the Bible. We have been taught about His mercy, His everlasting love, but never have a true understanding about all these terms. All the words in the scripture, of course, we did not say are not true, but some seemed kind of impractical.
Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the God of the Bible does exist. Our Buddhist background convinced our behavior to think that it is impossible to go to heaven by doing nothing, just believing in the blood of Jesus Christ. We would go to church, pretend to love one another, do worship, and having doubts that we think we need to be doing something more than Christian activity, we may need to give our money, not because we love one another, but maybe this would please God instead of simply obeying His word.
2. Those who became a Christian in the last 10-15 years, aging between 20-60 years. Because of globalization and having an awareness in Christian education, there are many ideas spread throughout Christian society in many denominations; each one claims their faith as the true one. With the divisions among Thai Christians, each group blames the other, no exceptions. Moreover, this kind of division and blaming also takes place in churches. We have much knowledge, but are going not quite far enough, because they don’t turn their knowledge into practice.
Islam is making many inroads in Thailand because they are boldly present in many forms. Many Christian leaders are trying to compete in ways that make them look stupid to people from a Buddhist culture.
In this day, in the ungodly world, no one wants to talk or realize that Thai Christians are so poor, and far away from the truth of the blood of Jesus Christ. If some people found the truth and returned to the Word of God in the Bible, they would be considered as a weird (strange) believer, uncommon, with no place to stand.
Finally, if someone asked me, like a man from America asked me 3 years ago, “Gift, if you have only one choice to choose any topic to tell/ teach people about our Christian life, what would your choice be?
He gave me a plenty of time to think, but I suddenly replied to him that I would have them know the truth about our LORD, Christ Jesus and tell them “it is very important to know Jesus as our personal LORD & Savior.”
I never knew whether he understood my answer or not because I had no opportunity to talk about Thai Christian background. I guessed he kept silent because of a language barrier or maybe we just got lost in translation.
However, one thing is sure – the answer would be the same if someone asked me today, but I would not hesitate to give more explanation of this thought. It is not enough to simply to go church and “practice” being a Christian – you must have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus and KNOW him.