I was pretty exhausted and brain-fried after a day’s work and two hours of class when a participant in TRACI’s Gender and Biblical Equality Course brought this up. We were on our 7th session and she asked a question that most of us would probably have had for a while: If the church and society are so happy with the way things are and unlikely to change anything soon, why do we bother? I smiled tiredly. Some days I know why I try. At other times I wonder the same. Why speak? Why write? Why disturb my own mental peace and unsettle so many others who seem to be living peacefully? Maybe it’s just me and a few odd others who feel out of place and perceive something wrong in the existing system and we should just adjust and shut up for the ‘greater good’.

I’m someone who has tried to speak and suffered for it. Over the course of the last year, I’ve met quite a few others who have had similar experiences and are still dealing with the fallout. We are considered something of a public nuisance because of the issues we seek to address. We talked about things no one wanted to talk about and now no one will talk to us. Quite funny, if you think about it. The question is, why, braving all ostracization and disapproval, do we even try to bring these things up? Why, as Christians ourselves, talk about class, caste, gender and other ‘issues’ within a space like the church? Would it matter if we let it all lay?

Like I’ve mentioned in an article before, whenever I voiced my disagreement to some of the discriminatory practices within the church, I have been told that it’s not a ‘core theological issue’. So long as we are clear on doctrines like salvation, resurrection etc., we can get along. Who decides these core theological issues though? And what are the limits? This advice has caused many of us to reserve our opinions on matters that do not seem ‘important enough’. Christendom today, in many cases, has become all about going to heaven and nothing about living on earth. Everyone is concerned with clearing a path to their eternal abode, and they don’t mind who or what they clear out of the way when they do it. Once you label an issue as ‘marginal’ or ‘peripheral’, you absolve yourself of having to deal with it.

In our staff devotion today, director of training, Mr.Issac Thomas brought this question back to the apostle Paul (who ironically is the Biblical writer most often quoted to keep things in status quo). He shared from Galatians 2:1-5 where Paul sets out to talk to church leaders in Jerusalem regarding something that was controversial for the Jewish Christians – the question of circumcision. Many of the Jewish Christians believed that Gentiles who accepted Christ should also undergo circumcision according to the Judaic tradition. If we look at this, it does not seem to be a ‘core theological issue’. It has to do more with custom than with salvation. Paul writes, “we did not give into them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.” (v.5). For Paul, then, this is something that has to do with the very truth of the gospel that he preaches. Paul repeats this phrase in the passage that follows (11-21) where he confronts Peter (the disciple and apostle of Jesus, and who presumably could hold more power than Paul himself) for withdrawing from eating with the non-Jews when the men from James came (v 11-13). Peter does this because “he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group” (v.12). Surely, this affects no core doctrine?

What is Paul doing here? I mean come on, who would cause a scene at a ‘peaceful’ dinner party because of the seating arrangement? Clearly, the ‘least of the apostles’ had no qualms about disturbing the fake peace by confronting Peter face to face about his hypocrisy – because he says, hold it, yes, “they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” (v.14). 

Issac uncle stressed on this definition of hypocrisy and I found it extremely powerful. “Hypocrisy is being inconsistent with the truth of the gospel”. And if we are to believe Paul (which we are compelled to, seeing he is considered to have authored the major chunk of the New Testament), the ‘truth of the gospel’ is not just concerned with select ‘central’ issues. It is concerned with those who are being discriminated against, shamed and oppressed. It is concerned with who sits at the table of fellowship and who is gatekeeping salvation by imposing their own versions of the truth. I think it is quite obvious by now that those of us who choose to hold a differing opinion are often asked how we can still ‘be Christian’. How can you be uncircumcised and still a Christian? How can you be a feminist and still a Christian? How can you raise a voice against authoritarianism – both church and outside – and still be a Christian? By choosing to foreground certain doctrines as central and other ‘issues’ as marginal, a very clear statement is being made. And by labelling those who speak differently as ‘heretics’, it becomes even easier to avoid some of these less-than-savoury discussions.

You cannot preserve a peace that does not exist. What has been termed as “normal” must not be confused with peace. A ‘peace’ that is bought at the cost of many minds at unease, lives in suffering and voices silenced is no peace at all. Peace, in biblical terms, cannot be achieved without reconciliation. All other forms of ‘peace’ are merely manufactured silences that project an outward show of all being well. The Hebrew word ‘shalom’ (peace) means to ‘make complete or restore’. It is not a passive state you are already in, it implies action. It means more than watching world events from the bleachers and protecting your own ‘peace’ by not engaging with anyone else. The ‘peace’ that we are being asked to maintain and chastised for disrupting is not the peace Jesus gave us. John 14:27 records Jesus saying “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Clearly, this peace has little to do with comfortable situations. It is given for those who go forward courageously into situations where their hearts might be troubled. It is a peace that comes from the “truth of the gospel” – a truth that sets free (John 8:32), and does not enslave (Gal 2:4).

Joann Rachel Cherian is a Research Associate with TRACI. With a graduate degree from Christ University and Master’s in Literature from JNU, Joann engages in avenues that allows her to combine passion for literature and her love for the Word of God with the hope to find a way to effectively bring the two together in her further studies.
Joann says that she was blessed to serve with the Executive Committee of JNUCF as Music Secretary – an experience that shaped the manner in which she engages her faith with the discipline that she is part of.


  1. Thank you Joann, You seize every opportunity to stand and speak for the ‘Truth of the Gospel’. Blessings

  2. Sathish Simon

    CONGRATULATIONS for a well thought through article

  3. Congratulations..

  4. Nice work ….bhai…..
    peace implies action, therefore you are promoting peace by writing up for the cause that is very important , yet people had hard time swallowing the bitter truth, and also refuse to seek the truth…we are call to carry the cross, so do not be discouraged by their words or action, but continue …. the things u r doing…..

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