Last week around this time, I was wrapping up the eighth day of a business trip to India where I had visited three of my company’s key IT suppliers. One of the highlights of my trip was a dinner where I was seated with a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh and me, a Christian.
Early on as I sat the table with these three other men, the thought dwelled inside of me, “What do I need to tell them about Jesus? Aren’t they damned? Am I here just for this reason?” Of course, this brought about a degree of panic and confusion mostly because I felt ill-equipped, and because this was, after all, a business trip. (Am I allowed to bring up Jesus?)
So, with resolute faith, I prayed, “Lord, get me out of here.”
And, eventually He did, a few hours later, and much after the four of us had a thoughtful, meandering global conversation on topics including work, politics, economics and even religion.
All I can say is this. My honest confession to God resulted in a warm response from Him in that my anxiety left me immediately and I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of, “Why don’t you just get to know them Paul?”
And I did. I learned why Sikhs dress the way they do, I heard what it is like to grow up Muslim in a predominantly Hindu country, and I learned about the three primary deities of Hinduism. I learned about their families, their hopes, their views of America, and their perceptions of Christianity, some of which I gently corrected and others I admitted were flaws of the people in our faith.
On the surface, these three men knew more about each other’s lives than I would have thought possible. There was much laughter when the Sikh, Halpreet, admitted that underneath his turban was not a lot of hair since he had gone bald a long time ago, when Prekash admitted some of his wife’s Hindu gods were a little annoying to him, and when Wasim said that Muslim weddings — like the one in a few weeks for his niece — were very stressful.
Are they going to hell? Did I blow it and not tell them the Gospel when I could have? On the first, I still believe that God controls that, and I trust He knows this is an issue. One the second, let me put it like this, the fact that the four of us could find common ground and could talk openly and honestly speaks volumes to the Gospel. This was the way Jesus approached His ministry. He didn’t ignore people. He engaged with them. He built bridges to other people by feeding them, healing them, and giving them hope as he taught and showed the universal, lasting truth of God’s love for people.
And to me this was the lesson of that night. Act like Jesus. Speak in love. Listen to their life stories and show compassion for the struggles they face. And always, always, always remember: the person you are speaking with is created in His image. Even if they don’t believe that.