“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” — John 3:16-17
In 1706, a German Lutheran named Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg arrived in Tranquebar, India. He baptized an Indian who took the Christian name Aaron, then went on to become the first native Protestant pastor — and my ninth-generation ancestor!
I think about him at bedtime on Sunday nights, when my five-year-old son Rohan asks awkward questions about God and the afterlife (“Will we grow in heaven?”). What inspired Aaron to give up his religion, his culture, and even his name in order to serve some “foreign god”? What was the truth that turned his life upside down, and still resonates with his descendants three centuries later?
India has always loved its gods; but those gods never really loved us. They were physically present in a million idols — but completely absent emotionally. Our struggles were ultimately ours alone, the payment for sins in a former life.
I suspect the Good News that captured Aaron’s heart is the same that waits for us: we had the wrong God.
Like my ancestors, I too often find myself living as a victim of my past life, trapped in cycles of performance, frustration, or bitterness. Perhaps you do too.
The message of the cross is that our shame is real — but God Himself provides a way out! We just need to admit we’ve been following the wrong God. Give up the heavy yoke of trying to prove ourselves. Accept the freedom of being yoked to One who truly loves and understands us. Gaze into the eyes of Jesus as if hearing the story for the first time. Like a five-year-old child.
And dare to believe.