Is eternity set in the human heart? And if it is, what does that mean? (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
And here is a parallel set of questions that relate directly to “the red rope” – the symbol of Jesus’ Blood that I have been carrying for a number of years. There is an East Asian proverb (There are both Chinese and Japanese versions) that states: “A red invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, no matter time, place or circumstances. The read thread may stretch, shortened or get tangled but it will never break.”
Making the simple assumption that Christianity is true, should we therefore write this off as simply false? Or should we see it as a twisted resonance of something true (for example: the Scriptural red cord of Rahab or the red wool Moses used as part of the sacrificial ceremony – Hebrews 9:19) that, even though it has turned up in other cultures or religions as a proof of the validity of the genuine Scriptural version, now holds the danger of being wrong enough to deflect people from finding Jesus?
How should we deal with this question? Is it so worrying that we should steer well clear and so not risk any danger of confusion? Or is there something rather amazing and wonderful about the way reflections of God’s truth turn up in world views other than Christianity? Are these God given landing strips of truth for people who might otherwise just see God’s truth as foreign? Are they dangerous fake news? Are a small slice of eternity dropped into culture and philosophy by the Holy Spirit to help ake a way for the Gospel of Jesus into people’s hearts.
Many years ago I was told to read a book by Don Richardson called “Eternity in their Hearts”. You should read it. The main premise is that every culture and worldview has been influence by God’s revelation of his divine nature and purpose in creation (Romans 1:16) and so contains glimpses of eternity – ie: who the true God is, his original order in making the world and his redemption plan in Christ. These truths, although twisted, Richardson argues, are not the Christian evangelist’s enemy but rather the place where mission to those people should start. The book is full of stories of mission into various cultures where the Christians discovered (sometimes by accident and sometimes by design) these glimpses of eternity and built their telling of the Gospel upon these places of common ground. From these stories (a well known one is called Peace Child – Richardson wrote a whole book about this) and his reading of similar things throughout Scripture Richardson suggests that, instead of trashing the local culture or worldview, the Christian trying to reach them for Jesus should study their writings, myths, proverbs, stories and worldview and look for those things that resonate with the Gospel and the Scriptural worldview.
Once they do this work and find pieces of common ground, the evangelist need to sift them carefully to see if they really are helpful and consistent with Christian truth or whether in citing them the missionary will find the whole conversation going off down dark, demonic rabbit holes. Richardson careful explains and gives example of Scripture and church history of how this sifting should be done and tells stories of times when the church has got this process right (eg: South Korea) and when it has got it badly wrong.
For the sake of this blog I don’t intend to repeat everything Richardson explains or argues. Read the book and have your own opinion. Mine is that he has a point. A big point. And makes it well. Once you have read the book you will have a view too and may agree with me that I should be asking questions about references to red cords, red ropes, red threads as they seem to appear in pre-Christian, non-Christian, pseudo Christian, new age and other worldviews. Are these references to red cords useful in my journey with the red rope and my use of it to proclaim the power of the Blood of Jesus and the opportunity to pray using this symbol. Or are they a dangerous distraction that are more likely to lead people into error, confusion or spiritual oppression?
I have already told you of the red thread in East Asian legend and myth. What do you think? Is this a useful place to start explaining the true Jesus based Gospel? Even if it isn’t, should I still see it as something hopeful God put there, even if it was then twisted beyond recognition by the world, flesh or devil?
I am also really interested to know other references to red cords, ropes or threads in other worldviews or religions. Maybe you know if one and could message me with it. I know there are some in Hinduism, Islam and possibly forms of Judaism. Maybe you could message me with your understanding of what these are and whether you think they are useful hints of God’s truth expressing some of “eternity in their hearts” or whether they are dangerous and evil twistings of truth that should be thoroughly avoided. I look forward to hearing from you and growing my catalogue of things to avoid, on the one hand; and, on the other hand, amazing opportunities that could act as starters of heart conversations with people who have, until now, been far from Christ.