Seeing the Gospel in a crazy story
Mission trips are always an interesting thing. Flexibility and expecting the unexpected is the name of the game, and this past trip was no exception. I went with a team of 6 people to Kathmandu, Nepal to encourage some missionaries we have there. Typically we come in expecting to bless others and God ends up blessing us.
The day after we arrived in Kathmandu, I got the privilege to preach at the Nepali church that our missionaries attend. It was great to worship and talk about the Bible with them. Along with church came afternoon tea around 1pm. As we sat around the pastors living room, he casually told us that he was performing a wedding that night for a young couple. Given that we had already had church and had other plans set up, I didn’t give it much thought and continued to enjoy my tea. The pastor began to tell us the story of how Chiron and Araati met and how their relationship came to be. Their story was amazing.
The religion and overall culture of Nepal is Hindu. Hinduism holds that after a person (or anything) dies, it is reborn into something else. If a person does bad things, they come back born as an animal, like a grasshopper or a monkey. If a person does good things, they come back again as a human. If a person excels in doing good things, they come back as a high caste human. There are a number of different levels of society for people in Hinduism, and Nepal has that as well. The rule with castes is that it has to do with the family you are born into, but more than that it has to do with the person’s former lives (I’ll write a post sometime on why I disagree with Hinduism). The reason why this long explanation and context is here is because Chiron (groom) and Araati (bride) were in different castes. It is a major no-no to marry outside of your caste, especially to marry down. Chiron was born into a high caste family with a lot of money, and Araati was born into a low caste family with little money. They met and fell in love, first with Jesus and then with each other.
A little more context. For a Hindu to become a Christian, it comes with multiple costs. You are treated as an outsider in your family and lose your relationship with them. You lose your ability to work within the community, as a Christian is viewed lower than a low caste Hindu. When Chiron became a Christian, his family was not happy. Then, when Chiron brought up Araati, his father said that if he married this girl as a Christian that he would lose his inheritance, his family, and social standing. Chiron told his father very clearly that he didn’t care what he thought and that he loved Araati and wanted to marry her. The father removed his sizable inheritance from him and removed him from the family.
Araati’s family had its own concerns. They were not happy about their daughter becoming a Christian. Her family was also concerned because they understood the caste system and didn’t want Chiron to change his mind and shame their daughter. Chiron had to go to Araati’s family and convince them of his love for her. He said, “I have given up everything for her. I love her, and she will be my wife for all of my life.” They went to the pastor and after getting pre-marriage counseling asked if they could have a marriage ceremony.
At this time, Chiron actually stopped by the house to say hello to the pastor on his big day. We said hello to him and our team went on our way. I had some more teaching in a couple days that I needed to prepare for anyways.
Around 3:30pm, the Nepali pastor came to the room where I was studying and started talking about different things. We talked about the ministry and how the school he oversees was going. He then casually mentioned that instead of a small ceremony in his living room, they were going to have a ceremony with the school at 5pm, and asked if we wanted to join. What an honor! Of course I was excited at the chance to watch a wedding from a different culture.
“Oh, and you will speak at the wedding.”
“Nothing big, just 10 minutes or so on why marriage is important.”
I quickly grabbed a notepad and started scribbling notes down on a piece of paper. One of the team members asked me if I needed anything, and without looking up I said, “5 focused minutes of quiet.” I think he walked out of the room. Not quite sure.
As the wedding started, it was amazing to think and consider what was happening in this moment. I’ve done plenty of weddings with two young people excited to spend the rest of their lives together, but this seemed different. As the couple sat on a couch (Nepali custom), they seemed contemplative and almost non-emotional. There were songs that were sung and some prayers given for the couple, and what seemed like a joy filled time was paired with their blank stares. It was like they were counting the cost during the entire ceremony.
I was secretly hoping my name wouldn’t be called, but the pastor brought me up front and I headed up to talk with a couple I had never seen together, a bride I had never met, speaking in a language they didn’t know. Fool proof. I shared about how marriage needs humility, patience, saying sorry and I forgive you, and ultimately Jesus. I told them that I would pray for them and that it was an honor to be a part of their ceremony, and then I walked to the back of the room. And while I watched the couple for the rest of the ceremony, I started seeing the gospel.
Here was a rich man who had everything in front of him give up his rights for someone the world thought wasn’t good enough. He went down from above to love this orphan girl and called her beautiful (she is) and married her. He gave his life to be with her. It’s a picture of Jesus, the Son of God, who came down and humbled himself, made himself low, and served people that the world didn’t think were worth it. He served them and loved them even to the point of rejection from his Father so that his bride, the church, would be held up in beauty and majesty.
The one time I saw real emotion was when the girl was asked to dance. She danced a traditional Nepali dance, and she moved and smiled with so much joy. She was radiant. She was beautiful. She was held up as pure. Jesus does that with us.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” - Ephesians 5:25-27
So, did I speak at a Nepali wedding? Sure. But more than that, this story of this young couple spoke volumes to me about the beauty of the gospel and the amazing picture we have of that in marriage.