Children’s Corner — From Persecutor to Persecuted, part 3

The story up to this point: Until his teens, Philip was like many millions of children growing up in southern India. Then one day he was recruited by a radical political faction, the RSS, dedicated to eradicating all western influences from India. He became active in persecuting the local Christians when, shortly, he fell ill and developed crippling contractions of all his extremities. Every effort at finding the cure proved futile. Philip was devastated. A virtual beggar for six years, he contemplated suicide, but, at the last moment, backed out of drinking a bottle of poison. He turned to the gods of the Hindus, but they were unavailing, as was Allah of the Muslims. Finally, swallowing his pride, he went to the local Pentecostal church where the congregation prayed for him. Nothing happened then, but three months later, while praying alone in great agony of spirit, he heard a “divine” voice instructing him to “untie” his hands and let them down. Tremblingly he obeyed and was instantly cured. Shouting with joy, he jumped on a bicycle and rode home, then on to twenty-five surrounding villages, triumphantly proclaiming Jesus of the Christians, This caused a sensation and many Hindus acknowledged the true God. But his former political friends were enraged. Moved by a spirit from below, they served him an ultimatum to stop preaching Jesus or face death. Philip launched into an earnest appeal which touched the hearts of his enemies. They left him unhurt and rejoicing. The Devil retreated for awhile, but was not about to give up. His next strategy was to work through Philip’s parents. But the God of Heaven was looking after His own. The enemy of souls was about to suffer another crushing defeat.

Their attempt to kill Philip thwarted, the RSS leadership realized that another method to stop Philip from spreading Christianity had to be devised. They now turned to his parents, and with barely veiled threats coerced them into cooperation.

The elder Mr. Jagadeesan was a man of standing in the community. He was fairly wealthy by local standards and commanded much respect in the village. A staunch Hindu, he was an exemplary patron of the village temple, but his son’s conversion to Christianity was an acute embarrassment. Much as he rejoiced in the healing Philip experienced, he was nonplused by his determination to spread his new-found faith. Secretly, he wished he could learn more about his Jesus whom Philip was so enamored with, but his pride stood in the way. It would never do to let the world know he had leanings toward the foreign religion, so he covered it up with an outward bravado. He would protect his dignity at all costs. Thus when the RSS leadership strongly recommended that he rein Philip in, he was easily persuaded to comply. But he wanted to avoid offending Philip too, and decided to exercise great tact and wisdom.

“My son,” he called gently to Philip one day, “You say Jesus has healed you. I really don’t see anything wrong with that, but we’re facing a serious problem as a family. The RSS leadership is very upset that you’re preaching this Jesus to all the villages about. They have threatened to destroy us all if you don’t stop this activity. My own dignity and standing among the people are at stake. Let me suggest something. Why don’t you simply read your Bible at home, for my sake, don’t go to the different villages.”

Philip listened with head bowed respectfully. He felt a lump rising in his throat as the significance of his father’s words hit home. A titanic struggle was raging within his breast. He loved his family dearly. They were all so closely knit. It would be the greatest tragedy if anybody was hurt on account of what he was doing. He wanted so desperately to say, “Okay, Dad, I’ll do as you say.” And yet, how could he say it? Hadn’t he promised solemnly that he would proclaim the God who had healed him? But again, maybe Jesus would understand if he reneged this time. After all, it was too dangerous—not for himself, but for his beloved family. He would gladly suffer for the sake of Jesus, but why should his family face harm on his account?

Drawing aside the cosmic curtain, unseen and unsuspected by Philip and his father, one might have beheld a gripping scene, such as has been enacted innumerable times since Father Adam brought sin into the world, and arrested the attention of the unfallen universe. For a battle, as grim and terrible as any fought in the history of humankind, was in progress between the hosts of darkness and the legions of heaven. Back and forth the deadly conflict raged, depending on which direction Philip was leaning. Now the demonic forces under their evil commander appeared to succeed in engulfing him in doubt and despair. Now the white-clad angels of heaven thrust them back and restored peace and joy to his heart. Until at long last Philip made his final decision: He loved and respected his father, but he loved Jesus more. He would not disappoint his Saviour. Behind the invisible curtain one would now have seen the bright angels succeed in completely linking their arms about Philip, and heard a hallelujah song as the news of victory was transmitted across the expanse of the heavens from world to world.

Not wishing to hurt his father and appear rebellious, Philip made a noncommittal reply to the standoff. He knew deep in his heart that no human ties could ever stop him from carrying out the commission he had received form heaven. And in the days following he continued to slip out to the villages. Soon, however, the RSS got wind of his defiance and returned to ratchet up the pressure on is father.

The elder Jagadeesan was beside himself. What was he to do with Philip? He could not wish for a nicer son, but his activities were landing him in a heap of trouble. As he mused on what course to follow, a plan began to formulate in his mind. He would try one more time to appeal to Philip, and if he succeeded in stopping him from preaching, well, but if not, he would resort to a foolproof measure. This measure-of-last-resort, however, he could not divulge immediately.

The next time Philip was at home, his father again called him to himself. Then he did a most unbelievable, extraordinary thing—something in fact so rare in an Eastern patriarchal society as to be almost unheard of and probably to warrant newspaper headlines! He actually fell down on his knees and grasped Philip’s feet. “My beloved son,” He pleaded, “Have pity on your mother and me. Keep your religion to yourself, but please don’t go about preaching it. We will all perish at the hands of the RSS if you don’t listen.”

If Philip had a gargantuan struggle the first time, it was infinitely worse now. To see his dignified father humbling himself on the floor in such abject fashion was almost too much for him. He felt the lump rising in his throat again, his eyes misted over. He longed to relieve his father’s distress, but how could he do it without offending his God? If he could have looked with supernatural vision he would have noted the spiraling escalation in the conflict between the forces of good and evil over his soul. Reinforcements from both camps would have been seen rushing to aid their own sides. But Philip was riveted to the Rock, and nothing, not even his father’s agonized pleas, could shake him loose. The holy angels rejoiced at another victory.

Choked, but fighting to hold back his emotion, Philip bent over and picked his father off the floor. His hands were trembling. He tried to reassure his father that he would do all he could to preserve his honor and dignity, and to protect the family from harm. But he could not refrain from telling about his Savior who had showed such mercy to him.

The ensuing days were difficult for Philip, but his resolve was strong. Relying on divine help, he continued the preaching rounds of the villages. It was now that Father Jagadeesan decided the time had come to implement his measure-of-last-resort. He wished he didn’t have to do it, but his hand was being forced. More than mere human help was needed to change Philip’s mind. The cosmic contest was taking a decidedly more ominous turn.

A few days later, under the pretext of making a business trip, Mr. Jagadeesan left to visit the neighboring state of Kerala. He had heard of the mighty powers of the shamans (witch doctors) of that region. He intended enrolling the services of one of them to convince Philip of the error of his ways. After some haggling a price was agreed upon and Mr. Jagadeesan, with the shaman in tow, returned home. He chuckled to think of the surprised, perhaps frightened, look on Philip’s face when he would see their “guest.”

It was close to midday when the unlikely duo reached the village. The shaman lost no time in beckoning Philip to himself. The sooner he finished his job, the sooner he could collect his fees! Unloading his sack from his back, he proceeded to open it. The eyes of the onlookers nearly popped out of their heads as the articles of his trade were exposed. A human skull with empty eye sockets stared at them, grinning a hideous, toothy grin. An assortment of other human bones came to view too, as did a variety of animal horns, teeth, hair and nondescript body parts. A bottle containing a mysterious liquid added to the interesting mix. But the thing that caught the singular attention of Philip was a figurine approximately six inches tall. He could not recall ever seeing anything with such a horrible, malicious look on its face. He didn’t have to guess, he knew at once it was a representation of the Devil himself.

Drawing a circle about three feet in diameter, the shaman instructed Philip to sit cross-legged inside it near the top, while he arranged his charms in front. This done, he looked at Philip. “You have one last chance to decide that you will no longer preach Christianity,” he growled menacingly. “If you refuse, I will cast a spell on you and return you to your former crippled condition. Now make up your mind quickly.”

It was with some foreboding that Philip had watched his father come home in the company of the shaman. He felt his mouth go dry and his heart begin to race, but he gave no outward indication that he was afraid. He remembered his previous deliverances by One who was mightier than all the gods of the Hindus. Now sitting inside the sinister circle, facing the angry medicine man and his frightful charms, his response was to close his eyes. “O God,” he prayed silently, “You are the only true, living God. I am Your humble servant. This man is a fraud, a false prophet. He doesn’t know anything. Please come down and place Yourself between him and me.”

The shaman noted Philip’s response with scorn. But half afraid that he might cave in without the aid of his antics, he feigned impatience. He was anxious to demonstrate his invincible power so he could claim his reward. So without further ado, assuming correctly, that Philip’s silence was a refusal, he launched quickly into his carefully rehearsed routine. Renting the air with unintelligible incantations, he waved his arms in bizarre patterns with different objects in his hands by turn. The mysterious liquid he sprinkled over Philip and the charm on the floor. The family stood quietly around, keenly observing every detail of the proceedings, expecting any moment to see Philip’s hands and feet shrivel back into their previous withered condition. Philip remained statuesque.

For an hour the rigmarole continued unabated. But it was becoming apparent that something was not quite right. The shaman’s face was growing grimmer by the minute. Notwithstanding beads of sweat on his brow and running down his scraggly beard, his movements were becoming more energetic, the pitch of his voice more frenzied. It was clear he was doing his very best.

Another couple of hours dragged by with no hint that the gods were listening, much less acting. Now the shaman was beginning to show signs of tiring. He was not waving his arms as vigorously anymore. His voice was hoarse, body drenched in perspiration. The onlookers were growing restless. How long would this drama go on? Soon a new phenomenon became evident. The poor man began to break off in the middle of his chant to slap himself and scratch vigorously. Now it was his arms, now his belly, now his back and chest. A puzzled look came over him. Intermittently he began glancing around as if to make sure an escape route was still open. And now a nameless terror overwhelmed him. He stopped altogether.

“What’s the matter?” Mr. Jagadeesan was anxious. He wasn’t going to pay him for nothing.

“I don’t know,” the man replied in shocked disbelief. “There’s something wrong here. This fellow has a superior power. My charms are all dead, and I can’t explain this itch. I think it’s time to quit. Don’t worry about paying me, just please don’t tell anybody what happened here. I need to save my business.” So saying, he hurriedly gathered up his paraphernalia, slung the bundle onto his back and unceremoniously bolted out the door. The angels had battled mightily for four hours.

Once again Father Jagadeesan fell on his knees. “O my son,” he spoke with emotion. ‘Your God is the true God. Please pray for us. We want to follow Him too.”

This dramatic story of the Christian God was noised far and wide, bringing him praise and glory.

And Philip’s standing as His especially favored one was confirmed in the minds of the populace. Many former Hindus today can trace the beginnings of their conversion to this time when the God of heaven signally honored the faith of His humble servant. Amen.