Right now I am in the midst of a series of sermons on World Religions and am finding that exploring religions other than Christianity is unsettling for some Christians because they feel if they are open in any way to the truths of another faith (even those that directly correspond with Christianity) they are, in essence, cheating on Jesus. The belief that I hold as my own and that I try to comfort these people with is this: You cannot "cheat" on Jesus because the whole earth belongs to Him. It all came from Him and it will all return to Him, no matter what it is labeled while here.
Here are some key questions to consider when studying religions other than your own:
- Who or what is the only true and living God?
- Doesn't every holy book claim to contain "the" truth?
- Doesn't every religion assert that its God is the only true and living God?
- How can they all be right?
- How can they all be wrong?
- Who decides?
I like to think of different religions as the various paths humans use to reach God. There is more than one path and each path contains some truth, but none contains the "absolute" truth. Thinking that your chosen religion (or the religion you were born and raised in - not necessarily that you chose) is or contains the absolute final truth is very dangerous. Thinking you "know" is the worst kind of darkness you can be in because when you think you know everything there is to know about God you don't even realize you are in darkness. Jesus, Himself, said to the people of His generation, "You have heard of old, but I say to you..." He did not discount that what they knew already was the truth, or rather, "a" truth - but He was very insistent that there was always more truth to be added to it...line upon line...precept upon precept... glory to glory.
Humans regularly mistake opinions and viewpoints for final and absolute truth. Humans are also prone to let their opinions and viewpoints become their absolute truth. The problem is that a person who has been raised in a different faith with a different holy book believes this just as strongly and that is where the arguments start. I propose that ultimate truth is not in one religion or the other, but in the place where they meet. God is bigger than any one religion.
It has been helpful for my congregation to keep the following affirmation in mind when studying different religions. Perhaps it will help you as well:
"I love Jesus and I'll never be ashamed of that. However, I know that truth is bigger than any one religion. While I am studying religions unfamiliar to me I will not lose my devotion or attachment to Jesus, but I will begin to see the Christ outside the boundaries of Christianity."