Posted by: Matt Norton | March 30, 2009

Inter-Faith Conversation

Tonight we had a community group from our church, Sojourn, come and serve dinner to our residents.  Many of the members weren’t going to be able to come so John, the organizer, came to Kerry and I and asked if we’d help prepare and serve dinner because they’d be shorthanded. We said sure and so it ended up being four people from their community group and then Kerry and I.  The meal was great and went off without a hitch.

Once we’d finished serving we sat amongst the residents and ate.  One of the guys josh, who knows Spanish pretty well, went and sat with Juan, one of our Cuban residents.  They started talking and continued well after dinner was over.  John and I were curious what they were talking about so we went over.  We found ourselves in the midst of a discussion about the differing beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians.  (All of this, by the way is going on in Spanish)

John and I sat down, intrigued by the conversation.  They had gotten into whether or not Jesus Christ was God made flesh.  Josh argued for the humanity and deity of Jesus and Juan against it.  They went back and forth looking at John 1, Genesis 1:26, a passage in Isaiah, and a few other places.  They were reading from an English Bible and then a Spanish Bible, then Josh looked at a commentary and then Juan was not happy with the Spanish Bible we were using and got his own.  It was all very curious, funny, and exciting. The longer they spoke the more Juan and Josh seemed a little perturbed that neither was budging in his belief. It started to seem like a debate.  Soon though Julio, who is also from Cuba and a Jehovah’s Witness, came and sat down.  He is a very calm and jolly man and his presence seemed to set the mood more at ease.  I then started to ask him questions about Jesus, salvation, our sins, and other areas I was unclear about in the Jehovah’s Witness beliefs. The others started to listen us a bit. He started to answer and in our mixed English and Spanish dialogue I was better able to understand his beliefs.  The atmosphere went from friendly but opinionated to more of a laid back friendly question response session.

The conversation slowly came to a close as we started going in a circle in terms of the subject.  At the end of it all I said to Juan, we’re still amigos right?  He looked at me with a big smile and in Spanish said something to the effect of, “of course little brother, don’t be silly”.  There was no conversion on either side, but I do believe that we were able to understand each other better.  I believe that God used that conversation to bond us all, to challenge us to ask why we believe what we believe, and to show us that we are not going to “save” someone.  If someone comes to the realization that Jesus Christ came down from heaven, perfect and holy, as God’s only son and died on the cross for our sins and then was raised from the dead, defeating death it will be God’s spirit upon them pursuing them and working in their heart.  It is not on followers of Christ Jesus to save the world or convert people.  We are called to be faithful and obedient to God and to let his spirit work in people.

I am still not exactly sure what I want to say in conclusion or what God taught me, but I just know that I really enjoyed being part of that dialogue.  I enjoyed hearing other people talk about strong convictions they have.  I enjoyed hearing the passion in their voices.  I enjoyed being able to say everything we said and still have a love for one another.  We all left as friends who had just had a wonderful conversation.  I will continue to love Juan and Julio and I will continue to pray for them that they will see the incomprehensible grace that Christ Jesus showed us on the cross and continues to show.  I pray that I and all Christians show love whenever we share with others, that everything is tempered with love, grace, and mercy.  I will wrap this up with a scripture that reminds Christians that great things done without love are worthless.  In 1 Corinthians 13: 1,2,13
“what if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge? And what if I had faith that moved mountains? I would be nothing, unless I loved others…For now there are faith, hope and love.  But of these the greatest is love.”

As Christians we pray that our lives are full of love toward God and people and that we speak when prompted by the Holy Spirit.  We pray for our obedience to God and for the strength to live out the Christian life in every part of our lives.

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