Question: My friend is a Buddhist, a great guy, and I have a real love for him. We’ve gone around and around about our beliefs, and I’ve been accused of being somewhat of a bully when I talk to others about God and His Word. How should I be when it comes to the truth of the Bible and trying to show others it isn’t “my opinion” or “my truth” that I’m trying to show?
Response: Second Timothy 2:24-25 tells us, “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.”
This approach recognizes that it is God who draws individuals (John:6:44). Consequently, although we must speak freely and boldly, we need to be careful lest our aggressiveness speaks louder than the words of Scripture. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans:10:17).
A “prayerful” approach cannot be emphasized enough. How wonderful it is that the Lord God of heaven can touch those areas that all our cleverness cannot. Proverbs:18:19 tells us, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city.” This being so, we must be careful to maintain our relationships and trust God to provide an opening for further discussion of these issues. If the Lord was capable of opening your eyes, why would it be any different for your friend?
We create our own problems when we tire of waiting on the Lord and try to “help” Him, usually with indifferent or disastrous results. We do not need to have a perfect stratagem prior to meeting with someone. Often we are just there to be with them and listen. If you are praying for your friend and he is at all open to the Lord, then he will be having thoughts that are just as disquieting to him as yours once were.
We need to be careful to discern when the Lord is creating an opening for us—and then we must be bold to act, trying not to run ahead of Him. “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians:3:6).
It is helpful to learn some things about the other’s beliefs and then compare that with what the Bible teaches. From that basis, we can take a position of asking questions about the individual’s personal faith. This approach is usually less threatening and, more often than not, may plant some seeds that raise questions because now the individual must make some sense of what they believe—and manmade religions quickly become contradictory and irrational once they are placed under more than a cursory scrutiny.
With this understanding, and at the prayerful urging of the Lord, you can begin to introduce some foundational concepts. There is a God who made all things, who is above all and greater than any other entity who is called “god” (1 Corinthians:8:6).
Paul used a similar approach in Athens when he spoke to those gathered around the Areopagus. He sought to lay a foundation of truth. “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts:17:24-25).
Prayer must be a constant in the process; as you know, it’s really the work of the Holy Spirit that brings about a change of heart.