If you consider yourself a follower of Jesus, here is something to consider: Do you really believe that Jesus is uniquely different and superior to any other person or believe system? And if so, are we arrogant in thinking this? Is faith in Christ just another option in the spiritual smorgasbord set before us? What is wrong with someone choosing a different option?
These are questions that we need to think through as God gives us opportunities to talk with others about Jesus. The Bible is clear about the exclusive claims of Jesus. Do we believe that what it says is true for everyone or just true for us?
In the fall, I was working out in my neighborhood gym and entered into a conversation with a student from the University of Central Florida. I noticed that he had an accent, so I asked him where he was from. He answered that he was from a Middle Eastern nation. He was wearing a cross on his neck so I asked if he was a Christian. He said yes and that he grew up going to the Catholic Church in his country.
He shared with me a little of what it is like growing up in that part of the world. He began to tell me how in America we don’t realize how good we have it. He mentioned to me friends of his from other Middle Eastern countries who daily live with the uncertainty of violence and others that have died from it. I told him that God had used him to remind me of the need to pray for Christians and for the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Middle East.
When I said this he looked at me and said very politely that he does not usually talk to people about religion. He mentioned that he comes from a region of the world comprised of people from three religious groups: Jews, Muslims and Christians. These groups share a common history and origin yet there are hostilities and no real hope for peace. He began to say that both the Bible and Koran share many things in common as some of the same people are mentioned in these holy books and revered by both faiths (Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus to name a few).
As he finished, I interjected that this is true but what is said about these people does not always agree. For example what each faith says about Jesus is radically different. In particular, Muslims believe Jesus to be a prophet but not God incarnate. Whereas Christians believe that Jesus is not only a prophet but the Son of the Living God. Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead whereas these are the very fundamental truths of the Christian faith. He agreed that this was indeed true.
I went on to tell him that I do not like to talk to people about religion either. He gave me a strange look that seemed to say, "Then what have we been talking about?" I told him that to me religion is centered on man and it focuses on man’s attempts to appease, to find approval, to gain a right standing, or reach God in his own efforts (for instance, the five pillars of Islam or the baptism of Hindus in the Ganges River to wash away their sins). I told him that Christianity is radically different for it not focused on man’s efforts but God making a way for people to have a relationship with Him.
Then I began to share with him the simple message of the gospel as I said that all people share these three things in common:
1) Every person who inhabits this planet was created by God (Acts 17:24-26).
2) Every person has sinned against God (Romans 3:23).
3) Every person finds themselves separated from God and deserving His wrath for our rebellion (Romans 6:23a).
In light of this universal human predicament, God has made a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God. In His love, God sent His Son to die for our sins and whoever believes in Him shall have eternal life (John 3; 16).
As I was sharing these points he was nodding his head in agreement. Yet the conversation would shift on what I said next.
I then said that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). At this point he politely said to me that he did not mean to be rude but he wanted to know what I thought about Buddhism. I said, "Honestly, I don't know a lot about Buddhism but any belief system that lays out any other path to God apart from trusting in Jesus Christ is false." He then said to me (very politely) this is why there is so much tension in the world because just like you claim that Christianity is true, then so can someone else make the same claim about Buddhism or any other religion.
Then he asked me, "What makes Christianity different?"
I came to the gym for a workout. Yet I found myself in a deep spiritual conversation and in need of God’s help for what to say next.
What about you? How would you have answered the question?
Photo courtesy of Jake Bouma (Flickr Creative Commons).
If you’re leading a team then you know you that this is crunch time. There are a few precious weeks with these people who have been entrusted to your care before your staff peel off to focus on MPD and prepare for their summer assignments. You can help your team end well by reminding them that they are not lone rangers. You can lead a discussion on what it means to be a TEAM.
There is tremendous comfort in the knowledge that we are "seated" with Christ. You have a seat at the table with Jesus. You are seated with Him right now. You are at the Greatest Table with the Greatest King.
“Perhaps the most undervalued quality of a great mind or, at least, an awakened mind, is the willingness to abandon cherished ideas that cannot stand up to new evidence.” Joseph Loconte “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
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