In the glocal (local + global) world we find ourselves in, we don’t have to cross the Atlantic to find people of other faiths and cultures. We live in multi-faith neighborhoods and most cities in North America are far more diverse than we often see at face value. So many of us find it hard to communicate with people from different cultures and backgrounds—let alone people of different faiths. Yet we are going to be increasingly confronted with the reality of a multi-faith America, and we are going to need to overcome the fears and misconceptions that may arise from our interaction with people of different faiths.
First and foremost, we need to recognize the reality that every person has been created in God’s image and has inherent value (Gen.[1:27]). God’s desire is that all are saved and that no one perishes (2 Pt. 3:9). As Christians, we do this from a Biblical perspective, reflecting the nature and inherent goodness of God toward everyone, everywhere. 1 John [4:18] reminds us that there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.
Our Fear is Real
Some Christians hesitate to get involved with people of other faiths because they are afraid they are going to lose or compromise their own faith in the process. There are many who fear people of other faiths. I’ve been there and have had some instances where fear has crept into my heart, momentarily, but what I found is that the joy of just being human, humble and compassionate, goes a long way to overcoming these fears. After all, I’m an evangelical, a conservative evangelical at that, and an evangelistic evangelical to top it all off. This means I tell everyone I can, in a polite way, about Jesus. I believe Jesus really is the only way to God. But that doesn’t mean I’m better than anyone else or that this gives me a right to be arrogant. Truth is wrapped in boldness, but with humility, not arrogance or hate.I believe Jesus really is the only way to God. But that doesn’t mean I’m better than anyone else or gives me a right to be arrogant. Truth is wrapped in boldness, but with humility, not arrogance or hate. Click To Tweet
God’s Promises are Greater
Fear may be a natural response to unknown territory and new experiences, but God’s presence and promises are greater than the fear we experience at any given moment. To bring some perspective into this all, if we think about it, we’ll realize that we have no reason to fear, because no one can hurt us—we go to heaven when we die. As Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew [10:28]).
Recall the story of John Wesley, when he was on a ship returning to England after having served a parish in Savannah, Georgia. He had yet to come to a warm, personal, trusting relationship with Christ, and when the ship encountered a horrible storm, Wesley panicked. But he noticed that the Moravians on board were as calm as if it were a sunny day. One of the Moravians, seeing Wesley’s fear, asked him, “Aren’t you a believer? Then why are you so afraid?” That’s what led him to re-examine his relationship with God, eventually leading to his true conversion to Christ.
I have great news—most of us are never going to be put in a position of extreme danger for our faith. And as we begin to love those of other religions and cultures, we can depend on the promises of God. Only the promises of God, and the power that comes from him, can enable us to reach out to those who may intimidate us. As God’s promises have helped me move forward in multi-faith, I’ve discovered an amazing thing: the people I fear the most invariably become the people I love the most.As God’s promises have helped me move forward in multi-faith, I’ve discovered an amazing thing: the people I fear the most invariably become the people I love the most. Click To Tweet
Love your ‘enemies’
What we will come to see as we move from fear to love is this: there is no reason to fear others, because most people want a relationship with us. I have found this to be true time and again as I’ve met people all over the world—especially when I get to know people who are supposed to be my “enemies”. We must simply realize that some of the very people we tend to be afraid of are actually trying to reach out to us sometimes. Fear steadily rises to reinforce negative stereotypes and doesn’t stay static. But Jesus had an answer for that: He said, “Love your enemies.” I cannot allow my fear of a small few to paint an entire people in a negative way. One thing we can do to love people of other faiths is to clear up their misconceptions about Christians when we have the chance. And when we’re in conversation with them, we’ll have that opportunity. But there is nothing like spending lots of time with a person of another faith to break down the misunderstandings and the fears.Bold love doesn’t ignore the fear; it steps into the place the fear is, and puts its feet squarely on love. Click To Tweet
Stepping out in faith is critical as we forge relationships with people from other faiths. When we are driven by fear—as followers of Jesus—we cannot love deeply and truly. We want security; God wants exposure so that he’s glorified. We want ready-made plans for every challenge; God requires faith and trust to follow him. We want faith without risk and ministry without pain. But what we’ll find is that the most difficult times of life are often the most fruitful times. The day-to-day reality is this: when we reach out to someone of another faith, chances are nothing bad is going to happen. In the end, we have no reason to fear because we’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the comforter and is with us at all times, in all places, in every situation. I can relax and be calm knowing that. Bold love doesn’t ignore the fear; it steps into the place the fear is, and puts its feet squarely on love.