by Kevin Pauley
That’s right – if you make Insight your priority, and won’t take no for an answer, searching for it like a prospector panning for gold, like an adventurer on a treasure hunt, believe me, before you know it Fear-of-God will be yours; and you’ll have come upon the Knowledge of God.” – Proverbs 2:1-4
As you read the book of Proverbs, you find that Wisdom is calling out in the Market Square, in the city gates, outside the town, on the hilltop – everywhere. Sometimes, men listen to part of what she’s saying. I may hear something you don’t. You may hear something another can’t, but each of us is capable of hearing if only we’ll listen. It is religious bigotry to think you or your denomination has the corner on the market of truth. The Japanese samurai had a saying. It went “Shiken haramitsu dai kyo myo.” It generally meant, “In every encounter there is enlightenment.” They felt that every encounter they made with another man yielded the opportunity to come a little closer to the Truth. This ancient Japanese proverb sounds remarkably close to what Wisdom has to say in Proverbs doesn’t it? Let me show you something.
(Jesus) Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:31
(Buddha) Consider others as yourself. Dhammapada 10.1
(Jesus) Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. Matthew 25:45
(Buddha) If you do not tend one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick. Vinaya, Mahavagga 8.26.3
These words, attributed to Buddha, predate the Christian era by more than five hundred years. Truth is truth, regardless from whose lips it falls. In Buddhist terms, there is one truth, not many.
I also am not advocating many truths. We are all like the blind men who grasp an elephant. One, with his arms around a leg proclaims, “An elephant is like a tree!”.
Another, with his hand upon the elephant’s trunk, shakes his head, “No, it is more like a python.”
While yet another, feeling only the tail, smiles, “Oh, no! It is snake-like, yes but not that large a snake!”
The last, trying vainly to hold to a great flapping ear, gasps out, “A great banana leaf. It is like a great banana leaf.”
Are each one wrong? Yes. Are each one right? Yes. Each is partially right and partially wrong. Their common problem is that they will only believe the little piece they have in their hands, never guessing how large and mighty a creature an elephant actually is. Many of these other religions have seized some truth and swallowed it with a lot of untruth. However, it is too simplistic to utterly reject everything they say out of hand. It makes it impossible for you to build bridges to them in order to bring them to Christ. Didn’t even Paul quote the Greek’s philosophical poets back to them approvingly? Of course then he showed them where they went wrong.
Aren’t we often like those blind men? Does God like ritual? Yes, claims the Levitical scholar. But isn’t God sick of ritual and wanting a close personal relationship with us? Oh yes, sighs the student of Christ’s life. We need to forego our religious and denominational arrogance and begin to seek the Truth. The whole, many faceted, complicatedly simple and contradictory yet profoundly honest Truth – wherever we can find it.
Have you completely rejected everything someone from another religion or denomination has said in the past? Look for some areas of commonality, concepts you can agree on and then use those to begin a dialog that will hopefully bring them to Christ.
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Kevin Pauley is a pastor and writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Lynn, their five children and two dogs. His internet address is Berea.
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