A few weeks ago I was eavesdropping in a crowded auditorium. (Come on, we ALL do it, right?) A mother and daughter were chatting it up with a stranger, discussing faith. We were all there to hear a Christian speaker, but it became clear the daughter was not a Christian and was there to appease her mom.
After a few minutes the conversation took a weird turn, so I accidentally turned around to add my own two cents. Accidentally on purpose. This butting in with my own two cents is becoming more common in my 40’s.
The stranger began to tell the daughter that all that was required to be considered a Christian was belief in goodness, love, and a supreme power. When the daughter expressed that she had converted to Buddhism, the stranger shrugged that off as if it didn’t matter. It sounded to me like, “Yah, you are kind of flunking Christianity because you don’t believe in Jesus, but you’ve got over 50% so you can be included.”
I was strangely offended. As far as I know, Buddhists don’t want to be called “D+ Christians.” They want to be called Buddhists.
And so I jumped in. “Buddhists do not believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world, right (quick nod to my new Buddhist friend) so this woman is not a Christian. She is a Buddhist. Her world view is completely different and she would apply her faith in ways that look vastly different from mine. She has different beliefs about how the world was created, why we are here, and what will happen to her after death.”
And here’s were we usually think everything is going to explode. But it didn’t. The Buddhist woman thanked me profusely and looked relieved. Then the Buddhist lady and I explained together to the stranger that Jesus is the central figure to the Christian faith and without Him, you don’t have Christianity.
Then the Buddhist lady and I explained to the stranger that we do have many things in common, but they belong to the shared humanity category, not the shared religion category. We both love, desire peace, hurt when we are wounded, are offended by injustice, saddened by death. Our religions explain these phenomenons differently, but we feel them similarly.
And so that’s when my new Buddhist friend helped me share Christ with a Christian stranger.
Before we parted, she thanked me for knowing that she doesn’t believe in Jesus and for helping her clarify that – to the stranger, and within herself. I felt grateful to have helped her know that she doesn’t know Him…not yet anyway.
He’s too good to leave out of the story, don’t you think?