String Theory

16/05/2019 12:05:24 PM | Luke

String has a seemingly unlimited amount of uses. You can tie things, bind things, hang things. You can even tie it to a lightweight frame with fabric pulled over it and make a kite that flies. However, despite the many potential uses of string, for the average Australian it doesn’t hold any special meaning or value. String is just string.

This is very different in Thailand. For most Thais, a short piece of white string holds significant meaning. String tying is one of the most common spiritual practices amongst Thai Buddhists even though the practice actually predates Buddhism in Thailand. It is used for weddings, travel, arrival, house warmings, dedications and many more occasions. The string is tied around a person’s wrist and is accompanied by prayers or chants for luck, protection or blessing. Usually once tied the strings remain on the wrist for up to three days unless, in the case of a wedding, two people have been tied together. 

For many Ethnic Thai followers of Jesus string tying remains an important part of their spirituality and to ask a Thai to give this up would be akin to asking Baptist baby boomers to give up post service morning tea. String tying hardly sounds biblical, I hear you say.  Well neither is tea and biscuits.

For the Ethnic Thai followers of Jesus, remaining deeply connected to their culture and community is vitally important to the spreading of the Gospel, as it is for all the people groups Global Interaction works among. This however poses a problem. While there is much about the Thai culture that is admirable and even Godly there is also much that is far from it.  

For an Ethnic Thai person seeking to be faithful to a new Lord but remain a part of their local community there is a need to accept, modify or reject aspects of their own culture. Some aspects are acceptable for a believer to retain just as they are, some require modification in their meaning or practice and other aspects must be rejected as they are simply not compatible with a life lived for Jesus.  

String tying is a great example of how the Ethnic Thai believers have modified a cultural practice to fit within their new faith. Whenever they tie string together they explain, for the benefit of anyone present who may not know Jesus, that the string has no power to protect or bring luck, but is a representation of God’s love and their prayers for one another. 

For them it is a significant and meaningful spiritual practice that cannot simply be done away with but instead can be adapted to their new faith. It is not up to the intercultural worker to dictate what aspects of culture are accepted, modified or rejected but rather the Holy Spirit’s work to lead people to the truth. The intercultural worker's job is to point them to Jesus.
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