Having a zeal for the gospel is commendable, but we should also be respecting the beliefs of others we share Christ with.
For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and at the last day I will raise them up. As it is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. (John 6:44-45)
The gift of salvation is available to everyone. Jesus Christ died for everyone to have the potential to come to know Him. But only those who exercise their free will to surrender their life to Jesus Christ and follow Him as a disciple will be granted eternal life with God.
This same free will is used every day by others around the world to choose a path other than Jesus Christ.
Dealing With Someone of Another Faith
Some followers of Christ feel an extra wave of zeal when it comes to sharing the gospel with someone from another religion. Or perhaps it’s a rush of adrenaline.
All of a sudden, we are dealing with someone who has a “faith plan” not our own. We feel like we have to be ready to counter their beliefs to help them see the change they need to make.
In these moments, we must resist the temptation of coming up with a clever argument or zealous preaching. Changing one’s faith is not like being traded to a different sports team, and we should not assume that everyone can see how “right” we are.
How would we feel if a Buddhist or a Muslim started telling us we should abandon our faith in favor of theirs, because we have chosen the wrong path?
Chances are that the person you are dealing with has come to their belief through strong family ties or a reasoned examination of the belief system. So, at the very least, they are loyal, or intelligent, or both.
If we want to engage people of other faiths about our hope in Christ, we should lead off by respecting the beliefs of others we share Christ with. And today’s passage helps shed some light on this.
Here are a few ways to approach sharing your faith with someone from another religion and do it respectfully.
Pray, Pray, Pray
First, pray for that person. And once you have prayed for them, pray for them some more.
Prayer is a great way to build compassion towards another human being. Because true intercessory prayer is about the other person, not about what you desire for them.
Pray that they would come to know Jesus Christ, yes. Pray for the opportunity to share your faith, absolutely. But pray for them as a fellow human being.
Pray for their needs. Pray for their wants. Pray for their loved ones, their careers, their life choices.
Once you have come to grow a true love for them as a person through your prayers, then begin to pray about your role in sharing the gospel with them.
Be a Loving Neighbor
Second, we need to extend that love from our prayer life into a relationship.
Today, Jesus Christ could shout from the Heavens or perform great wonders to draw people to Himself. But His current preference is to use His Bride, His Body, whom He has called to spread the good news.
The effective way to bear witness is through our relationship, not our reasoning. This is especially true when dealing with someone who will eventually be faced with comparing the quality of their faith life with yours.
As part of building our relationship, we should be willing to ask them about their faith. Their beliefs, what it means to them, and how they came into their faith practice. We can’t expect them to be interested in what we have to say unless we are genuinely interested in their perspective.
Learning more about another person’s faith is another great way to learn to respect the beliefs of those we share Christ with. You may find some wisdom there that is edifying.
Acknowledging something good in another religion is ok. You can do that and still maintain that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven.
Jesus Christ tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). If we show the kind of love that Christ calls us to, it will resonate with the other person. Hopefully, enough that they will find themselves wanting to know more about us, and our faith.
Acknowledge God’s Role
Third, realize that ultimately, God is who draws us into faith. Christ’s invitation is open. But that mystery, that balance of our free will also comes into play. He draws, but it is up to us – the invited – to both listen to the Father and to learn from Him.
When we share Jesus Christ with another person, we are simply serving as an instrument of God’s drawing. We are His hands and feet, opening the way for His drawing to shine through.
After sharing the good news, if the other person chooses not to listen to and learn from the Father, we have met our responsibility. The rest is between the individual and God.
This is another way we can learn to be respectful of the beliefs of others we share Christ with. By respecting their free will, which God gave to us all.
God gave every human being the freedom to say yes or no to Him. If this is God’s design, we should respect God enough to respect others’ choices.
Of course, saying no to God is a decision with devastating consequences. Therefore, we should pray and be alert to the opportunity to share our faith whenever the door opens (1 Peter 3:15).
Back to Square One
Once we have shared the gospel, if the invitation is turned down, we do not lose heart; we loop back around.
We continue to pray for them. We continue to love them as neighbors. And if the opportunity presents itself again, we bear witness to our faith again.
The worst thing we could do is to abruptly shut down the relationship after an “unsuccessful” attempt at sharing the gospel. It projects an ulterior motive for our friendship.
It is entirely possible to have a long and meaningful friendship with a person from another faith, even while our heart yearns for their conversion. Treating them as a fellow human being deserving of compassion, love and respect honors Christ and them.
For those that need Christ, our love is the most powerful witness we have.
More verses about respecting the beliefs of others we share Christ with:
Joshua 24:15; 1 Kings 18:21; John 13:34-35; 1 Corinthians 8:5-6; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 12:25; 1 John 4:6