Contextualised Christianity Sadhu Sundar Singh
India's prominent Christian "sadhu" of early 20th century, felt called at an early age to renounce home, employment, marriage and family life to obey his Lord and tell others of God's love. His lifestyle was identical with Hindu sadhus of his day including dress, dependence upon others for his daily needs, and in spiritual discipline.
Sundar Singh was born to Sher Singh of Rampur, Punjab in India in 1889. His mother, a deeply religious woman, left an indelible mark on Sundar and nurtured him in traditions of Sikhs. Sundar often spoke of his mother with much love and respect because of good foundation she laid for his life to come. Little did anyone know what God was about to do with this keenly intelligent and disciplined young man.
When Sundar was about fourteen, his beloved mother and elder brother passed away. This left young boy in despair and spiritually restless. Sundar hungered for peace. He sought meaning for his life.
One night, a year or two later, after bathing in cold water in preparation for pooja he asked God, 'the all-pervading, impersonal, unknowable, incomprehensible universal spirit', to appear to him as an avatar. He wanted a divine revelation that would once and for all destroy his doubts and end his despair. His spiritual agitation was such that he made a vow to throw himself in front of early morning passenger train that passed by his village if God did not reveal himself. This vow was not empty words! Shaped by disciplined life of a devout Sikh, this strong willed youth meant to do exactly that.
That night as he prayed he became conscious of a light shining in room. He looked outside to make sure it was not someone shining a light. Gradually light took form of a globe of fire and in it he saw face of Jesus.
Jesus was last person Sundar was looking for. After all, Jesus was 'foreign god' of Christian teachers at his school. A zealous Sikh, Sundar had publicly torn up a portion of Bible to protest its claims. Amazed that his vision had taken unexpected form of Jesus, Sundar was convinced in his heart that Jesus was avatar in whom God reveals Himself.
Did Jesus speak to him? No one knows for sure; however, regardless of nature of 'conversation', Sundar threw himself on ground and surrendered His life to Jesus. At once peace flooded his troubled heart. The weary struggle to seek enlightenment and moksha was over for Sundar, for in Jesus he found shanthi. This divine encounter with Lord Jesus was to Sundar a rebirth into a new life.
The following months proved to be very difficult for Sundar and his family. Becoming a disciple of Christ was not taken lightly by his family nor his community. Misunderstanding his new found revelation to be a betrayal of all loyalty to his community he was excommunicated. Sundar may have been ill advised by some 'Christians' to cut his hair, unnecessarily maligning an honorable Sikh custom. Unfortunately, he followed their advice and cut his hair, a gesture that did not make things any easier with his family. His family was convinced he had renounced his Sikh heritage. However, through this strife and turmoil God cared for Sundar.
A month after he accepted water baptism of Christ in year 1905, he took vow of a sadhu. He gave away his meager possessions, put on a saffron robe and became a barefooted wandering man of God. Among Christians world over, this barefoot Sadhu was later called `apostle of bleeding feet' because soles of his feet were often covered in bloody blisters.
The life of a sadhu is hard and entirely dependent on God. Sadhu Sundar Singh's needs were met entirely through kindness of people he met wherever he went. His life story has been written down for us by several of his friends and admirers. He also, reluctantly, agreed to put his teachings and experiences in writing saying that like His Satguru, he did not want to write a word. Sadhu Sundar Singh reflected character of Christ in word and life; he had found peace in abiding presence of Jesu his brother and Lord.
Sundar also became a great missionary travelling perilously over mountains to Tibet where he was repeatedly persecuted as he attempted to share Christ with them. He suffered much at their hands but each year he would travel back to Tibet to show Jesus conextualised for Indian and Tibetan. He has revealed an Eastern God and taken Christ and made Him accessible to Eastern mind and thinking. Modern missionaries still have a lot to learn from missionary with bleeding feet.
Some of his selected teachings can be found below. More details about amazing life of this contextual Christian can be found in many books, some of which are still in print around world.
The Teachings of Sadhu Sundar Singh (selections from his books)
The Unbridled Tongue It has often been noticed that woodlouse that eats and destroys hard wood and insect that makes holes in rocks in sea are very weak and delicate. even so, they can penetrate hard wood and stone to spoil them completely. The same can be said of germs of evil thoughts and habits. However feeble and negligible they may seem, evil thoughts and habits eat into our lives to make us hollow and useless human beings. Unless, with God's help we are able to eliminate such germs, they can completely destroy us. Poisonous as reptiles, evil thoughts and habits cause death by biting and depositing their poison in wound. Even bugs and flies, though not considered poisonous, are in a way no less dangerous, because they spread germs of various deadly diseases and many are destroyed through them. Many people are like this. They do not outwardly appear dangerous, like murderous dacoits and criminals, but by insidiously spreading dangerous words and poisonous influence to others with their unbridled tongues they are just as much of a menace.
A Foreigner in a Strange Place When a person goes to another place or to a foreign country people consider him a stranger and dogs bark at sight of him. So followers of Christ do not belong to this world but are strangers (John 17:14, Heb. 11:13). Therefore they should not be surprised or downcast when dogs of world take them for strangers, bark at them, or frequently even attack and rend them. Having put our hand to plough we must not turn back, nor should we slacken our speed, but press on like a caravan, because dogs will turn back after chasing us for a while; they will fade out into silence, and we shall reach our destination in safety (Matt. 7:6).