The practice of yoga tends to be a subject of some controversy among evangelicals due to it’s roots in eastern religion. When I took a class at a Baptist college on yoga (as exercise), we exclusively learned the poses involved. There was no chanting or mumbo jumbo, no meditation. The only possible thing that could be linked to the history of yoga was the word namaste. We ended each class by placing our palms together and nodding our heads to the instructor, who did the same to us, and we said namaste to each other.
According to our instructor, we were simply thanking her for the class, and she was thanking us for our participation. This is an accepted meaning for the term among those who practice yoga as an exercise or sport, but the translation of the Sanskrit word namaste into English is “the divine in me honors the divine in you.”
Conservative evangelicals often shy away even from this word, because of it’s meaning. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder – why don’t we adopt this greeting and use it in our churches?
C S Lewis, in his essay The Weight of Glory, famously pointed out that everyone we meet is someone who will be alive forever.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – there are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
– C S Lewis, The Weight of Glory
How often do we really think like this? It is certainly easy to forget that we are eternal ourselves, and much easier when it comes to those who irritate or harm us in some way. Perhaps if we kept a greeting with connotations of “my eternal self honors your eternal self” or, specifically among Christian communities, “my sanctified self honors your sanctified self” we could better remember that while we are still sinners, the same Christ saved us all, and we will be together with him – and each other – for eternity.
In a recent worship service, a preacher encouraged the congregation to recognize this in the example of Simon Peter. Jesus gave Simon, the sinner, a new name when he became a follower. That name was Peter, the Rock on which Christ built his church. This same person denied Christ three times on the eve of the crucifixion. Jesus, because he has covered this, chose to see Peter and love him, rather than to see Simon and punish the sin. The preacher encouraged us to do this ourselves, in conflict with others, to see the new person Christ has cleansed rather than the old person who was lost.
This is difficult to do even if we remember. But how often are we reminded, or do we remind ourselves? Perhaps it should be a little more often.