Respect for the living letters
Trip Start Feb 06, 2006
6Trip End Feb 18, 2006
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We thanked him as we briefly skimmed through the book. My wife started reading it that night and placed it beside the bed on the carpet when she went to sleep.
The next day, Manu was talking to us in our room and noticed the book on the floor. "Please put the book on the table," he said. "It is a religious book and it's disrespectful to place it below you."
Now, we're used to dealing with cultural faux pas after interacting with international students. My wife is a former exchange student to Germany. My daughter studied in Germany and France. We have had several foreign students live with us, and we are active as volunteers in AFS, a cultural exchange program, where we befriend students from all over the world.
You don't touch a Thai student on the head, for instance. Arab students have to be specifically invited into your home; they don't just follow you through the door.
But this was new. We of course placed the book on a shelf at eye level.
When I started preparing for the trip to India, I noted that the Christians in India demand the same respect for the Bible. It is disrespectful to place the Bible beneath you.
Rituals and liturgy usually cloak a hidden spiritual truth, and this custom certainly speaks to me. Not regarding my Bible though. Mine is disintegrating, partly from overuse and partly from being in some strange situations over the years. I will replace it eventually.
But if we are living letters as Paul described, then this Indian custom is making me look at my fellow believers in a new light. Do I take them for granted? Do I place them beneath me? Do I dismiss them until they're needed? Or do I carry a continual appreciation for my brothers and sisters?
These are "scriptures" that you can't replace.