9/4/16 Edward about 30
How should we feel when we find out others are “exploring” other religions? In a sidewalk outreach conversation after church today, a man named Edward told me he was exploring Buddhism. I asked about his background and found out he had been raised Roman Catholic and had lived in a heavily Christian Bible Belt community, but didn’t like the hypocrisy of Christians and now favors the spirituality of Buddhism with its practices of meditation. I guess I could have felt rejected and defensive and immediately reacted with some sort of strong argument for biblical Christianity and against Buddhism. But while there is a place for a strong defense of our Christian faith, this was early in our conversation and I needed to do more listening than talking, finding points of agreement rather than giving the impression that I was looking for an argument. Is there anything positive we can find to agree on when we learn that others are exploring other religions?
There is one thing that we can point to that the various world religions have in common, something that all religions agree on and that we can use to affirm those who are exploring or favor other religions. We all have the same problem. The problem common to us all is we all have a sense of right and wrong and we all knowingly break it. We all have a conscience – we are all “with knowledge” – the general knowledge of good and evil. We have all knowingly done the bad things we know we should not do, and we have neglected to do the good we ought to do. Edward and I talked a while about this and, despite our different religious beliefs, we had a lot to agree on. This is an important point to make in beginning a Gospel conversation not only because it gives people of different beliefs something to agree on, but also because it provides the basic foundation for sharing the Gospel.
People of different religions may share the same problem, but they all claim different solutions. These fall into two categories. One side says we can save ourselves – through following religious rituals and rules. The other side says we need a savior outside of ourselves – and as far as I know there is only one of the world’s religions that has a savior. Others may have prophets or teachers, but only Christianity has Jesus. The good news of Christianity is that we have a savior, but this also points to the bad news that we will are sinners who need saving. As I talked with Edward, finding points of agreement early in our conversation helped prepare him to hear the Gospel without immediately feeling rejected or defensive about his beliefs. And this could only happen by refusing to feel rejected or defensive myself.