“I hope we are both right…” a friend recently shared with me as we compared and contrasted our two faiths. Even though my heart broke at this comment, I was thankful that we could have open and honest dialogue, not debate, about our beliefs.
I have had an extraordinarily unique position. In just about every other context I can think of, the type of conversations I have with some of my international friends would not be appropriate or could even be outright dangerous. Instead, we can enjoy talking about a variety of topics because we are ultimately seeking mutual-understanding.
How do I have conversations about faith with people from other cultures?
I have found that people from other countries tend to be willing to have open discussions about religion, faith, and spirituality. They are eager to hear more about what Westerners believe. In fact, some are confounded by the fact that religion is rather taboo in the U.S. - something that people should keep hidden inside their private homes and not talk about in public, because of potential disagreements or being “politically incorrect”.
The key to each conversation is that the purpose must come from a sincere desire to learn about and understand the other person. There is no place for ulterior motives, such as trumping a different perspective or winning a debate. If mutual understanding is the foundation of the discussion, you do not have to worry too much about “being offensive” or “being politically correct”. This means it is okay to ask questions - as many questions as you want! If you are uncertain how you might be perceived, you can begin with a phrase like, “Forgive my ignorance, but [insert question]?” or “I am sorry I don't understand [insert topic you would like to know more about]”.
It is NOT about being right or wrong
The “I am right and you are wrong” mentality cannot be a part of the dialogue. This attitude can make a person lose respect for the other and force defensiveness.
Now, it may seem like I am bordering on the edge of “whatever truth works for you” philosophy. However, from my experiences, I am able to share Jesus many, many more times if the rules of the conversation stay “I believe this; you believe that”. Truths are woven into the conversation. Otherwise, the conversation tends to shut down really quickly — sometimes by the other person and sometimes by me. Naturally, however, some conversations do come to the question of who is right or wrong
Keep the Conversation Going - Ask Questions!
So how do I respond to comments such as, “I hope we are both right…”? I keep the conversation going. I simply ask “Do you think that is possible?” or “What if we are not?” or “Have you ever thought about what it would mean if we aren’t both right?”
In the end, the Lord causes seeds to grow and will draw people to Himself. I do not need to stress about having the exact right thing to say or proving my point. I just need to relax and keep the conversation going.
Here are just a few great questions to ask to get conversations started:
• What is the major belief of your religion?”
• “What holidays do you celebrate in your religion? Why are these holidays significant?”
• “How does religion or faith affect daily life in your country?”
• “What do you believe is the purpose of life?”
• “If you could go back in time, who is the one person you would want to talk to and why?”
If you are interested learning more great starter-questions, just comment below!
See You In The Round,