Why would religious devotees pierce their bodies, carry heavy loads and climb 272 stairs to the mouth of the Batu Caves in Malaysia? The reason: it’s Thaipusam. This Hindu festival draws 1.5 million people from around the world, and Hindus who participate are willing to do whatever it takes to earn and deserve the blessing of the gods.
I visited the caves a few days before Thaipusam, and I enjoyed a significant conversation with a European woman who had travelled to visit the temples. She told me, as a Hindu she was there to worship and pay for heavenly blessing and protection. I reflected on the fact that in a few days many Hindus would pay a lot more, and I had a wonderful opportunity to talk about the contrast between the path for the Hindu and the path for the one who follows Jesus.
If you’re looking for a common denominator among the world’s religions, you’ll find it expressed in this idea: there’s something we need to do - to earn what we need to get – to get where we need to go. The specifics vary, as will details about the ultimate destination, but the common theme is we need to do the right stuff and live in hope that we’ve done enough.
Christianity stands apart from every other religion. It’s true there’s somewhere we need to go, but there’s nothing we can do to earn or deserve to get there!
Now don’t miss the contrast with Hindu pilgrims at the Batu Caves.
The Bible says that we cannot reach up to God – the good news is He reached down to us.
The Bible says we don’t pierce ourselves for God’s favour – the good news is Jesus Christ was pierced for us.
The Bible says we cannot earn God’s forgiveness – the good news is God has already paid the price in full.
God loved the world so much that he sent his son, Jesus Christ into the world. He gave his life for you and for me, paying for everything that ought to separate us from a holy God, and so today we can be forgiven by God and restored into a right relationship with him forever.
It’s not what we can do for God, it’s what God has done for us.
Author and speaker.