Saturday, April 2, 2016

I Have Decided to Follow Jesus – Anonymous

It has been paired with an Indian folk tune.  But, that is all we know…almost. Let’s assume that the words were likewise composed by someone from or in India, and ask ourselves what would have made this person say what he or she did in the four verses of “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. We know not the year in which this was composed, but the accompanying tune’s reputed origin in the Asian sub-continent, a land teeming with various sects, gives us some interesting information to consider. Though emerging from a very diverse region, perhaps all the people there would be aware of their common culture, stories, music, and art (perhaps including “A Lady Playing the Tanpura” [apparently an Indian instrument]” drawn in about 1740 by the artist Rajasthan, shown here). Zeroing in on our anonymous composer, how might a Christian think of himself in India? There is also a story attributed to a well-known Indian evangelist that we should consider too.

India’s Christian community owes it origins to probably one of Christ’s own chosen few (Thomas, most likely), and His followers likely still identify themselves as just a few among their countrymen. Though Christians number in the millions in India, according to a 2011 census they’re in the vast minority, compared to Hindus (approaching one billion) and Muslims (172 million). So, culturally, it would take some courage to accept and remain loyal to Christ. Thomas is said to have first brought the message of Christ there in the first century, and further missionary efforts in the following centuries (including the 4th Century) spurred more believers’ adoption of the Christian faith. Yet, in this area, one might be forgiven if he or she felt the crush of opposition. Perhaps that peeks through in the verses we hear in “I Have Decided…”, a devotion that hints of the real-life challenges associated with one’s faith in a land dominated by other faiths and their undoubtedly louder chorus. The song’s first three verses could sound like someone’s pledge of fidelity, though in the minority – especially verse 3’s assertion ‘Though none go with me...’. Perhaps this believer also girded himself with an effort to gather other Christ followers, hence verse 4’s challenge-question, ‘Will you decide now to follow Jesus?’  These assumptions fit well into a story related by the Indian evangelist P.P. Job, who wrote in his book “Why God, Why” that the song’s origin was indeed a believer being challenged to defend himself and his faith. Job says an Indian family of four (father, mother, and two children) in the northeast Assam region, perhaps up to 150 years ago (so circa mid-19th Century), had accepted Christ through the efforts of a Welsh missionary. Under threat of death from an angry tribal chief, the family’s two children, mother, and then finally the father all died as the father recited the song’s verses in defiance of the chief’s threats. Stunned, apparently, by the father’s and his family’s strength of faith, the tribal chief then too accepted Christ, whereupon the entire village he led likewise put their faith in God’s Holy Son. Sounds kinda like what happened in Acts 2:48, doesn’t it? 

Is it really that much different for me than for Indian Christians? Though Christians are reportedly in the vast majority in the U.S., why is it I feel outnumbered? Is it just my imagination, or are there very few cars on the roads on a given Sunday morning, telling me I’m in fact the oddball among most of my neighbors? What if I rolled down my automobile’s windows and allowed music to blare the words to “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” at 100 decibels? Would others come along, like mice to the Pied Piper? Maybe it would work better if I hummed—or lived--this tune, quietly but confidently, on Monday morning.

The story related by Indian evangelist P.P. Job is found in the notes at the bottom of this link entry:
See following link to see all four verses of the song:

A  link to Indian folk music that apparently inspired the tune of the song above:

See here for information on Christianity in India:

Christianity in U.S.:

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