9. How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?
In our culture today, the popular opinion is that all religions are essentially the same, so it doesn’t really matter what you believe. We should all just get along and not fight because if all religions are the same, what is there to fight about? The reason this is the popular opinion is because of compartmentalization. At some point (during the early twentieth century?) people who were less religious began to push religion out of the public sphere. Religion would be allowed (or tolerated depending on the person) only for personal spiritual pursuit. Religion should have no say or bearing on government, education, business, lifestyle, relationships, etc. As I mentioned in a previous post, religion has been made out to simply be about doing spiritual things such as meditating, giving (baseless) inspiration to the simple, and/or just becoming a “better person”. So again according to popular opinion, people of different religions should get along and respect one another, because they are all involved in the same thing, only going about it slightly differently.
However, as I’ve argued, following Jesus is supposed to be about so much more than that. He instructs us how to live life together. In other words, you can view following Christ as merely a form a spiritual inspiration (in which case you’d have to throw out or at least ignore significant parts of the bible), or you can view it as a way of life. Now that I’ve differentiated following Christ from other religions*, we can look at how we can relate.
The center of following Christ is love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). So first of all we should relate to people of other religions (or no religion) lovingly. That is, we should respect them and care for them despite our disagreeing with them. One way we can do this is by honestly listening to them, rather than only talking to them. We can look for truth in their own beliefs, and use that as a point of connection. This demonstrates humility, whereas only talking demonstrates pride by communicating that they have nothing of value to offer, while we have all the answers (or that they’re all wrong while we’re all right). I think things always work best when we see others not as adversaries that we must fight against nor people in error whom we must correct, but rather see them as fellow human being who are trying to make it through life. We should approach people in peace looking to come along side and help (love) them rather than approaching them antagonistically and confrontationally.
*I’ve specifically avoided saying “Christianity” in this section, because more often than not in our culture—at least practically speaking—Christianity has allowed itself to be compartmentalized, and is subsequently not so different from other religions.