Smells of incense wafted past my nostrils, as I sat, cross-legged, on the tile floor. The continuous chanting in Hindi by the worshipers sitting next to me was almost deafening, and my eyes were wide open as I tried to take all of the sights in. As the worshipers bowed down toward the idols–out of reach of everyone except the orange-clad gurus–I stared at them and at the splendid, hand-cut stone that made up the entire temple.
A couple of weeks ago, for a summer class that I’m taking, a took a field trip with my fellow students to several different sites of worship of religions other than Christianity. My experience that I briefly described above is when I was in a worship service in a Hindu temple (see picture above).
Besides the Hindu temple, one other place that I got to tour was a Buddhist temple:
This whole field trip gave me a chance to see how to better connect people from different cultures to Jesus. See, the key to everything is context. If you want to be able to connect with someone on their level and create a strong relationship with that person, it helps to know their context. For example, better knowing about the Hindu religion after experiencing a tour and being a guest in the worship service helped me learn a few basic things about how to better connect with people from the Hindu religion:
- Hindus do not believe in evangelism, i.e., they do not actively seek out converts since they believe that everyone has a predetermined, unchanging fate. Either you’re on the path to enlightenment, or you’re not on the path. Why waste time on someone if their fate is not going to change?
- They believe that the path to good Karma and enlightenment involves abstaining from the things of this world, e.g., the 3 “W”s: wine, women, and wealth. The better you do, the better Karma you will have, and the better life that you will reincarnate into.
- There is only one God, but there are many deities (“sub-gods” would be one way to view this). God has manifested himself in many different people throughout history.
- GOD is: Generator (he creates us), Operator (he sustains/takes care of us), and Destroyer (he destroys us).
- Animals should not be eaten, since anyone could reincarnate into an animal. Also, plants are different from animals in that animals have blood. The life is in the blood.
Most of this is probably not 100% accurate–it’s just what I remember from the tour, meaning that you should probably do more research if you want to actually understand the Hindu religion. And so should I.
ANYWAY, the first thing that I like to do when trying to connect with a different culture is look at the similarities first, rather than the differences. How is Hinduism similar to Christianity (in their most basic forms)? Well, we also believe that our actions have consequences–if you’re perfect, you get eternal life. If you’re in any way imperfect, eternal death. Although we also believe through grace in Jesus, which means you don’t have to be perfect (since Jesus was perfect for us).
We also believe that there’s one God–the difference is that we believe that he controls everything by himself (so he doesn’t need sub-gods). We also believe (like they do) that God has manifested himself throughout history, although for us it hasn’t been in multiple people, but rather in just one person: Jesus Christ. Interestingly enough, our tour guide mentioned that Jesus is considered as one of the many manifestations of God. Perfect place to connect with the Gospel!
We also believe that the life is in the blood, although in a slightly different way: we believe that our life comes from Jesus’ bloody sacrifice on the cross, which is far more effective than an endless number of animals’ deaths.
I could keep dissecting this, but I hope that you get the idea: By looking for similarities between different cultures, people groups, and religions, we can find ways to communicate the Gospel. And this doesn’t just apply to people from a different continent. There are plenty of ways to find connections between Jesus and your culture to bring in the Gospel. After all, you are called first and foremost to spread the Gospel where you’re at right now. How could you connect Jesus and your culture (whether it be North American culture or wherever you may be from)?