“He must increase, but I must decrease.”John 3:30
I have always been interested in how different cultures greet one another. I remember pulling into a gasoline station in Bangkok, Thailand. The attendant asked me, “Where you go?” I thought to myself that it was none of their business. Later, I realized that was simply the way they greeted one another. Whenever I would meet a Thai or Chinese person, they would ask, “Have you eaten yet?” Then, I thought about the American greeting. “How are you?” I realized that we are not required to give an answer.
Thinking about greetings taught me something else. The way we interact with each other reveals something important to that culture. Thai people love to travel. For the Chinese, eating is a high priority. Then, Americans care about our health and well-being.
When I went to Sri Lanka to begin Southern Baptist work, I became very close to one family in particular. The oldest man in the family was very kind, and I loved spending time with him. One day, we were talking about greetings. He said he thought that in Sri Lanka, Christians should greet each other with “Jaya Duh?” Jaya is a very old Sanskrit word meaning “victory” used in several languages. In other words, Christians would greet each other with “Are you victorious?” In 1 John 5:4-5, it says, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Through Jesus Christ, we are victorious people.
I vividly remember the moment my life radically changed. I was in Bangalore, India receiving treatment at our Baptist hospital for a serious parasitic infection. To get treatment, I had to get an injection for seven nights and then go to the missionary home, where I had to stay until the next evening. My host and I had hours of conversation. We found ourselves not being able to agree much on theology.
He asked me what I thought the task of being a missionary was. I responded by saying, “We are agents of change for individuals and society.” He quickly responded saying, “Nope!” Surprised, I asked him to explain. All the man said was, “We are to be.” Then, he walked out of the room.
I thought he would return to tell me what “we are to be” meant. He did not ever come back. I went to bed, but could not sleep. Finally, it dawned on me what it meant. As Christians, before we can do anything effectively, we should be like Christ. At that moment, I adopted John 3:30 as my life verse, which says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The only way to have victory in this life is to allow Jesus to increase His control over our life.
- Am I demonstrating love to others?
- Am I living in joy?
- Am I living in peace?
- Am I being patient with others?
- Am I being kind to others?
- Am I being good to others?
- Am I being faithful to others and Christ?
- Am I being gentle with others?
By asking these questions, I discovered that this is the way for me to stand firm and strive for a victorious life. I want people to see Christ in me.