Mike Novotny - Why Do People Join Other Kinds of Religions?
So, someone fired back a good question to what I thought was a beautiful answer. We were in church the other day and I started gushing about how amazing Jesus is. And how unique the Christian faith is. That God loves us unconditionally. That he gives us the free gift of salvation. He doesn't make us earn forgiveness or a place in Heaven. It's all ours through faith in Jesus. To which the person responded with this question: "Well, then, how do other religions get people to join"? Like, if here is Christianity offering everything as a gift. Like, eternal life is yours through faith and not through works, how do religions that rely on works do it? I thought, that's a really good question.
You know, at first I wondered, maybe it's because there are some other religions that don't ask you to repent. Like, you do whatever you want. You do whatever you want with your body or your schedule or your words or your money or your life. And whatever. We can make up for it with enough good works. That could be it. But then I thought, maybe it's something else. Maybe it's something that Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, stumbled on centuries and a millennium ago. Aristotle said that if you want to persuade someone of an idea, whether the idea is what religion to believe in or what, what restaurant to go to, there are three factors.
There's the message that you bring. There's the passion you say the message with. And there's the relationship you have with the person you are communicating to. Right? This is why I could probably go to a street corner, where loads of people are walking past, and I could preach the right message of Christianity with great passion, but how many people would be interested? Probably not many. They'd probably think I'm crazy and weird because I don't have a relationship with them. But if it's a great friend that I've loved, I've prayed for, I've been there for.
If I have that great relationship and then I come with a passionate message, they might listen and they might be persuaded. And I thought, what if that's true for other religions as well? Someone might be Wiccan or Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or Jewish or Christian. But what if one of the most powerful things is the relationship we have with the person? And that makes total sense to me. Like, if your best friend is Buddhist and that person has loved you and gone through life with you, and I roll up as a Christian with what I think is this great message of free love and forgiveness in Jesus, but you don't know me? Who are you going to listen to? Whose religion are you going to be persuaded by?
And I think that's why Jesus, when he taught, he didn't just give us a great message to share. He gave us a great lifestyle to embrace. Really early in his ministry in Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus said these words, Maybe you've heard that phrase before. You should let your light shine. That simply means, live in such a way that people see that you're good. Like, you're honest, you're kind and you're generous. Why do you do all those things? So you can earn a spot in Heaven? No. That's yours as a free gift in Jesus. But so that people can see it. And, hopefully one day, they can end up glorifying our father in Heaven together with us. So, why do people join all kinds of religions? And that's a complex answer. But, I think the relationship they have with other people, is the key. So brothers and sisters, let your light shine. Let people see the goodness, and the kindness and the unconditional love of God in the life that you live. Let's pray about that:
Dear God, it seems easy, perhaps, to believe the Gospel. But it is really hard, sometimes, to love people. To get out of our plans and our to-do lists and our schedules and what we want. And instead, think about the people that are right there around us. The people that we see at the gas station. The people that cut our hair. Every brother and sister, every neighbor, the person that we see getting the mail. God, we pray that you would help us to love them well. Not with an agenda, but just to love them because you called us to. Because you love them. I pray, God, that that love would open doors. That people would listen when we speak about your crazy love for people just like us. God, give us the strength, the power and the mission to let our light shine. We ask all this in Jesus' name. Amen.
I'm guessing so many of you have been drawn to Jesus or the Christian church because of the way that someone lived. And I would love to hear their story. If you have a chance, I would love for you to brag about the goodness of God expressed in another person. And tell us how their life affected yours. What good things did your neighbors or your friends or your roommates or your pastor or your parents do that allowed you to glorify God in Heaven? We'd love to hear their stories and I pray that we encourage each other to truly let our light shine. Have a great day.