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Namaste and Jaimasi

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by Monica Te

I went to Nepal a few months ago with ServLife for a teacher training trip, and my roommate, Ashlee, had a tattoo on the inside of her arm that read namaste.  I had always liked the phrase namaste, and not just because it was trendy to say at the end of an amazing yoga workout. I have always liked it because of what it means. Namaste is roughly translated, “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.”

Many of us associate Christian evangelism with self-righteous television and sidewalk preachers blasting and condemning the people around them or at least bragging about the number of kids they have “turned” so they wouldn’t “burn.” This evangelism has completely  forgotten the spirit of namaste, the humility and respect that we should have when we approach others. These memories of evangelism gone wrong are why so many of us cringe when we hear the word evangelism.

But before I let myself off the hook completely from speaking to others about Jesus…I have to tell you about jaimasi.  

Several years ago I read a quote which is credited to St. Francis of Assisi. I have no idea if he actually said it because I never took the time to look it up. But I have re-quoted it enough times to nearly own it myself. You’ve probably heard it, as it’s a famous one.  

“Evangelize always and sometimes use words.”

The quote is genius. And I’m absolutely sure that St. Francis had the right idea about evangelism when he said it. The problem is the way I misused it. Instead of evangelizing always and sometimes using words, I tried evangelizing when it’s safe and easy and only using words when I’m with other Christians who want to hear them.  

I began to see how wrong that approach was when I landed in Nepal. In a country where Christianity is the minority and religious freedom is a new idea, evangelism doesn’t equal superiority — it equals risk.  As I heard stories about veiled threats from the government and jail time for preaching, I realized that my Nepali counterparts aren’t going to prison for opening orphanages and giving scholarships. They are going to jail for talking about Jesus. Which means that talking about Jesus dangerous -- dangerous in a good way.

Because of the pressure and threats many Nepali Christians face, they greet each other in their own coded phrase, jaimasi, which means something like, “Worship God.”  

“I’m going to get that added to my tattoo,” Ashely said after a few days in Nepal.

And after a few days in Nepal, I began to understand that just as evangelism without the humility and love of namaste can be an affront instead of an invitation to people, so can an evangelism devoid of jaimasi and the worship of God be an affront to Him. They belong together. Which is why it’s time for me to add jaimasi to the tattoo on my heart.

I don’t know what that is going to look like, but I do know that it’s going to take a little more courage than I want to admit. But as I learned in Nepal, evangelism is always a risk.  

Are there times when you have shied away from using the name of Jesus or hesitated discussing Christianity because you didn’t want to be “that kind of Christian”? What are some ways we can all be more intentional about pairing the loving missional side of evangelism with gospel truths?

We would love to hear your thoughts and ideas during this ten-week series on rethinking evangelism.