We live in a diverse country with people of different ethnicities, backgrounds, religions, and opinions. And conversations about our differences take place all the time. Instead of walking in fear that you don’t have all the answers, you can start each conversation with a simple statement: “Hey, help me understand…” You don’t need to have all the answers. You need compassion for others and a listening ear.
As you learn more about the faith of those around you, use the conversations as opportunities to share about your own faith and your God. This is why it is important for us to equip ourselves with God’s Word on a daily basis (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Studying basics about what other religions believe about God and eternity will also help you go into these conversations with more knowledge and more compassion. For whatever reason, these people have bought a lie and chosen to follow false gods instead of the God who created them and loves them.
The goal of this religion is to escape the cycle of death and reincarnation. Hindus believe that everything a person does in life accumulates karma – a permanent record of good and bad deeds. The more the good outweighs the bad, the better chance that person will be reincarnated into a better situation or as a higher being.
What Jesus said:
Jesus doesn’t ask us to perform to achieve something good in eternity. His Son already took care of the price through His death on the cross. Jesus simply asks us to follow and walk in obedience, which is an overflow of wanting to grow our relationship with Him (James 2:18).
The great desire of Buddhists is to eliminate all desire. For Buddhists, life is suffering. They do not technically believe in a soul, but they do believe unresolved feelings and desires can become reincarnated into other people or things. Like Hindus, they believe that karma determines the blessings of the next life but that even the richest, healthiest people suffer unhappiness, sorrow, and death. All karma is bad karma. Once a person learns to desire nothing, they have accomplished a state of nirvana and then can dissipate into nonexistence and cease to be.
What Jesus said:
Jesus doesn’t ask us to eliminate all desire. In fact, He tells us to desire and seek Him and His kingdom. Jesus also acknowledged we will have suffering, but He reminded us there is hope, not in ceasing our existence and thus finally being at peace, but in spending eternity with Him (John 16:33). Though there is suffering, Jesus told us that He came to give us abundant life here and now, as well as forever more (John 10:10).
Modern Judaism is based heavily on ethnic descent and tradition as recorded in the Talmud. Excluding Messianic Jews – those who have placed their trust in Jesus as the Messiah – modern Jews reject Jesus as the prophesied Messiah and the incarnate God. Modern Judaism teaches that followers now become righteous by repentance, prayer, study of the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament), and performance of good deeds. Righteous individuals are resurrected, while unrighteous individuals go to a place of torment. However, the line separating the two is unclear.
What Jesus said:
Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17). The Torah existed as a means to show God’s people that they could never live up to all the requirements of the law and thus need a sacrifice to atone for those sins. They could never be good enough. Jesus fulfilled the law by sending His Son as a sacrifice on the cross. No longer do we have to sacrifice animals or fight our way to heaven by our righteous deeds and hope they are good enough (Hebrews 10:4). Scripture says no one is righteous enough (Romans 3:9-12). Our good deeds are as filthy rags to a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). But He made a way for relationship, not rules (Romans 6:23). The Messiah many Jews still hope for came in the form of Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 16:15-16).
Islam means “submission.” To deserve heaven, a Muslim (“submitted one”) must serve Allah as a slave serves a master. They must follow the teachings of the Quran and teachings of Muhammad, including reciting the Muslim profession of faith, performing ritual prayers correctly five times a day, paying a charity tax to benefit the poor, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and going on a pilgrimage to Mecca. No Muslim ultimately knows if he has been good enough to please Allah, who changes his revelation on whims as he so desires.
What Jesus said:
We serve a God who gives us good things and does not change like shifting shadows (James 1:17). He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9). We don’t have to worry about falling out of favor when we walk in His ways. We are to bear fruit by walking in obedience to His commands and to increase in knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10). This also grows our relationship with Him. We could never deserve heaven or eternity. But Jesus paved our way.
The goal of every Mormon man is to become a god – to rule his own planet and populate it through sexual procreation with his wife or wives. In Mormonism, salvation is achieved by following the examples of Elohim (God the Father who is the legitimate spiritual father of Jesus) and Jesus, who through their own good works both became gods. Mormons must follow a specific set of rules. Almost everyone eventually makes it into one of the three levels of heaven. Yet only the most worthy become gods.
What Jesus said:
Jesus taught that He is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 10:30). They are God in three persons. There is one heaven and one hell, and the only way to heaven is by faith in Jesus alone (John 14:6). We are not nor can we ever be gods, but we are co-heirs with Christ and considered children of God if we have trusted in His Son’s sacrifice on the cross (Romans 8:17).
Equip yourself on what others believe and stand firm on the Word of God. Handle conversations with gentleness and respect, seeking to understand before you are understood. And with each conversation, take the opportunity to share about the goodness of the God who wants a relationship with them, not a performance from them.
Interested in learning more about other religions and practices? Check out these resources through Pathway to Victory. Some content in this post was adapted from “What Seven World Religions Teach About Heaven” by Dr. Robert Jeffress.
What Seven World Religions Teach About Heaven
Christianity, Cults and Religions