Christmas In My Neighborhood - Loving Our Hindu Neighbors

Understanding Hinduism, and loving our Hindu neighbors.

Chuck Martin
Dec 8, 2019    33m
In this sermon Pastor Chuck Martin helps us to get to know our Hindu neighbors by introducing us to the main beliefs of Hinduism. He shares ways to love and honor them while still building bridges to overcome the obstacles between Hinduism and Christianity. Video recorded at Frisco, Texas.

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I'm Chuck Martin lead pastor of First Baptist Frisco. Thanks for watching our online messages. It's our prayer that today's message will be an encouragement your walk with Christ. If you don't have a church family that you're part of come join us. Thanks again for watching.

All right, if you were here last week, you know, we started a new message series we're talking about what does it mean to love our neighbors? Well, I don't know if you caught the scripture on the little sermon bumper or not. But in Matthew chapter 22, Jesus was asked. What is the greatest commandment? In other words. What is God actually after what does he want from you and I? He responded by, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and then he went on to say, And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. So what we're doing in this series is we're asking the question who are our neighbors, right? And then what does it mean to love our name? What does that look like? If you here last week we looked at the awesome story the parable of the Good Samaritan. We saw that Jesus intentionally chose as his example, someone who was of another ethnic background and religious background who demonstrated love. Who cared, who demonstrated compassion. And he challenges us to go and do the same. And so, what we're doing is we're looking at so what is Frisco? What is Prosper? What is the Little Elm? What is the community that we're in? Who are our neighbors? And then how do we love them in Jesus name? How do we build bridges for the sake of the Gospel?

In 2015, you may remember there was a Hindu temple opened in Frisco, made news. If you've been down Independence, that was the first Hindu temple here in Frisco. Matter of fact, it opened that weekend and each day over the weekend more than 5,000 people walked through the doors of the temple. Realize that today, there are four Hindu temples in Frisco and just to remind you of that. There are three southern Baptist churches, by way of comparison. I shared with you last week, that the fastest growing ethnic percentage part of our population or those of Indian descent. I share with you some statistics from Frisco “At a Glance” last week, I just remind you of that today. And specifically, in our school district, when we're talking about those who are Indian or of Indian descent, they fall in the category, demographically, some reason as being considered Asian, although Asian is a somewhat broad term, but I think most of us are aware that this is one of the fastest growing populations in the Frisco area. Now, certainly not all Indians are those of Indian descent are Hindu but the majority are. So today, what I want to do is, where I want to I want us to look at how we can build a bridge to the gospel and how do we share the hope of Jesus with our Hindu neighbor? Now the question is, are all Indians Hindu? No, now you realize that India is the second most populous country on earth. You realize that 975 million Indians are Hindu, 200 million are Muslim, I did not know that, 50 million are Christian, 25 million are Sikhs, 15 million are Buddhist and 30 is kind of catch-all all other categories.

You maybe didn't realize that, you maybe did not realize that Christianity actually spread to India long before it ever came to Europe. You realize matter of fact the gospel spread to India through the Apostle Thomas, that's what most believe and there's some strong historical evidence that that’s exactly the case. As early as 52, long before, you know, there was ever a Western Christian Church, there was a church, there were Believers in India. And so, one of the things that I want us to do as we seek to understand what the our friends, our neighbors, our Hindu, where they're coming from in their belief system, is to realize that that when it comes to the gospel, the gospel has been long established in India and I share with you some of the challenges of why the gospel has not spread as rapidly perhaps, in the Indian culture, as some other places. But one of the things that we're doing in this series, is we're saying, where do we start in sharing the gospel with someone of a different religious background? Where do we begin? And I think to do that it's helpful to learn what they believe and why they believe that and hopefully today will be helpful toward that end. But oftentimes, there are two mistakes that people make. One is to blur the distinctions between the religions. I think that that's that's that's that is a mistake, because the religious world views are significantly different. The beliefs are significantly different. The other mistake is to cast the other person's religious beliefs in the worst light possible. In other words, to not be respectful, to somehow create a straw man or a caricature, which is not fair. And so, one of the goals that I have, as we talk today, I'm going to walk through a little bit about what the tenets of Hinduism is and you’re going “that's a weird thing to do in a Christian Church. I didn't think I'd get that in the Baptist Church”. Well, we're going to see that, in fact, in order for you to share the hope of Jesus with your Hindu neighbor, you need understand what they believe and we will also share some pointers on how to do that this morning, but I think when we think in terms of how do we approach someone of a different religious background? It's helpful to do what Paul did and if you have your Bibles will start here in Acts chapter 17 turn there for just a moment. And there are some certain correlations between where we are in our culture today in sharing the hope of Jesus with our Hindu friends and neighbors to that which the Apostle Paul faced in Athens in his day. You see Athens was a polytheistic culture, in other words, there were many Idols, many temples to gods and goddesses in the in the Greco-Roman world not unlike that of the Hindu culture. There are some 33 million different Hindu deities. So, if you have your Bibles open to Acts 17 notice what Paul did, notice his approach. I think it's very fascinating. It says while Paul was waiting for them in Athens. He was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of Idols. So, there in other words, there were a lot of competing religious views. So he reasoned in the synagogue, obviously Paul being from a Jewish background, he began in in the in the synagogue with those of the same culture. So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day-to-day with those who happened to be there. In other words, what you see is Paul did not simply stop within the Jewish community. He did not stop with those who were similar to him in ethnicity or background, but instead, he went out and he met people where they were. He sought to dialogue to get to know them and their culture and their understanding--so he sets a great example for us in that. Look at Verse 18, he says, There was a group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who began to debate with him. He started the conversation. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to do?” Others remark, "He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said that because Paul, notice what Paul was doing, was preaching the Good News about Jesus and the resurrection.
And then, if you would, look down at verse 22. So Paul is in this this public marketplace, in a way, seeking to dialogue with those of a religious, different religious backgrounds, and notice, notice what he does, where he begins. I think this is so, so insightful and helpful for us. Look at verse 22, it says, Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and he said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and look carefully at your objects of worship, in other words, he chose to be a student of the culture, a student of their beliefs. He's, he's making observations. He's, he's learning, and he says, as I walked around and looked carefully the objects of worship. I found even an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So, you are ignorant of the very thing that you worship--and this is what I'm going to proclaim to you. And from that point on, he used that as a bridge to then say, let me talk to you about the God that you have identified as unknown and he used that to then share with them the hope and the good news of the Gospel. What I love about Paul's approach and I'll not read through the whole passage, is that Paul actually quotes a stoic philosopher. He also quotes one of their own Greek theologians. In other words, he understood their world view, he understood their beliefs and it was apparent because he even quoted some of their own teachers.
So, I think it is important that we understand the world view of our neighbors if we are seeking to share the hope of Jesus with them. And so that's part of what we're going to do today, and I encourage you, certainly I'm not an expert on Hindu theology, but I want to give a fair representation. Hinduism is a very complex religious system with several sacred texts. As I said, it is a loosely, in a sense, it is a loosely organized set of doctrines or beliefs, very much bound in the Indian culture, if you will. It is polytheistic and so our Hindu friends and neighbors will tend to have two to three gods that they will worship. Often times, it was, that that their family has worshipped for some time and they will have, typically, a small Idol or area with Idols in their home that they will worship that God or goddesses of their personal family. So, here's what I want us to do. As we talk about what do we need to know about Hinduism to share Jesus effectively. I'm going to share with you some key concepts this morning. I encourage you to take notes and as we do that, perhaps this will be helpful.
The first concept that I would share with you, is the concept of Brahman? Okay? Brahman. Brahman, in a sense, is the word, or the concept, for God from Hindu thinking. Okay? Now Brahman, is not a personal God, in the sense that we think of a personal God through Jesus. A Brahmin is more of a universal spirit--is more of the animating power, in a sense, of the universe. Okay. Perhaps more like a force, in a sense. A life force if you will. And what Hindus believe is that Brahman is in everything and in everyone and that each of us have a little bit of Brahman in us and that is called your Atman. Okay, your Atman. Say that word with me – Atman. So, Brahman, being the concept of God, is an impersonal God as a force Atman. Meaning that part of you that is a piece of this life force or the sky. Okay, to think of an analogy, Hindus will use the analogy of a drop of water and an ocean. It is like, within each of us, in their belief system, there is that that drop, that spark of the Divine. It's like a drop of water in the ocean of reality, okay. They think in terms of a spark that needs to return to the flame. Brahman, meaning this universal life force in your Atman. We might think of as the spirit or soul is that part of us, that is Brahman. Okay?
Now the next concept is one, maybe you've not heard this term--I know you've probably heard the second one--is the word Samsara. Probably, are familiar with the next word and that is reincarnation. Now these two terms are related. And so, let me talk about those for just a moment. The word Samsara literally means a running around or moving around. Samsara is, in a sense, the desire for your Atman to return to Brahman. You see the goal of Hinduism, what they call Mokosh or salvation in the Hindu thought, is to reach a state of enlightenment where your Atman returns to Brahman. You, you become enlightened, in a sense that you are then absorbed, within the Brahman and in order for you to return home, in a sense--return to the Brahman, your Atman, there is a journey, there is a path that you must follow. And so, most of us are at least somewhat familiar, with the concept of reincarnation. Reincarnation, from a Hindu thought, is the process by which you become increasingly, in a sense, purified, so that you might reach that state of enlightenment. Sometimes reincarnation goes the opposite way. Reincarnation, it's important, here's an important concept, in the Hindu thought, is always a bad thing. Okay? I know in the New Age religion or New Age thought--you'll hear some hollywood actress or something that will say, you know, I believe I was a Amazonian princess in a former life. Right? Well, a Hindu would go, well that's really bad because you came back right? I mean, like, like, you failed because the sense of reincarnation is the goal of, that is, that you might return to Brahman. And so, if you're reincarnated that means that somehow you fell short of the goal of enlightenment. Okay?
Let me introduce another concept. And again, this is a, this is kind of a high view. Okay? You're probably familiar with this term--Karma. I think Willie Nelson sings about it. Right? Karma is, is basically the sense of cause and effect. To, to a Hindu, Karma is, the result of, if you do good works. If you're, if you're committed to the path, then the Karma is that you're moving back toward Brahmin, right? And if you're living a life that we might consider “man, I've had a good life—I’m blessed”, then that points to the fact, that either you or your parents or someone before you, has done well and you are reaping the benefits of that. On the other hand, if you go through tragedy and trial - what Karma says, is it points to failure. Right? Or misdeeds in a sense. And one thing you need to understand, and and I want to underscore this - is the concept of Karma, is a comfort to a devout Hindu. Because that helps explain to a devout Hindu, suffering in this world, because in the sense, if there's suffering and you go through hardship, in the sense - either either you are partially responsible or perhaps you are basically, in a sense, reaping that, which someone else sowed – okay? See you kind of get with this concept of Karma - there is an awful lot of responsibility or burden on the individual to earn your salvation, to earn your return to Brahman. And the concept of that, is the concept known as Dharma. Okay? Dharma, in the Hindu, in the Hindu thinking, basically is duty or you could think religious duty. That is the efforts that you go through, good works. Though, we are going to see there are really three paths, so that you’re, through Karma and through reincarnation, you will move your Atman will return eventually to Brahman. Okay?
Now, it's important to understand, that if you grew up in that culture and you understood that that where you were in your strata of society, where you were as your family, is a result, of those kind of principles, you would understand also the burden that you would share not just for yourself, but for your family so that you might set an example and that you might move toward eventual Enlightenment. And there are really three paths to do that. One is called the Path of Action or the Path of Carmen. That is the that is the path of good deeds. If you do enough good deeds, you might reach Enlightenment. The second path is The Path of Knowledge. It is the path of contemplation. And when you think in terms of like a religious Swami from Hinduism it is through self-denial. It is through meditation. It is through conscious awareness that you reach this this contemplation in this stage of knowledge and it's very, very difficult. And by the way these come from the Bhagavad Gita which is the primary Hindu texts, certainly not the only. The third path is known as Bhakti or devotion and it is the most popular really popular in the most accessible path for Hindus. And Bhakti basically means you're devoted to your family's Gods, to you to your deities and by following the religious practices by remembering the festival's, by by both good deeds and devotion, by praying to your God, by repeating your God's name during the day, through offerings, making offerings, to that God. Then you are moving closer to that state of Enlightenment.
So why do I go through and explain Hindu theology? Because Hindu beliefs shape their world view. And before we can come alongside someone in a relationship and a friendship, to really be able to speak into their life. We have to understand something - of their culture - and and where they're coming from. So, let's talk for a moment about some obstacles for Hindus coming to Faith in Jesus. First off, one of those is that Christianity is seen as a western religion. And again, again I remind you that Christianity is an Ancient Religion in India, but it is perceived and seen as a western religion and there's some reasons for that. One of that, has to do with the colonization under the Portuguese and the British and under their rule. And so, it is perceived and seeing as a western religion and oftentimes missionaries would go and try to pull someone out of their culture and create a separate culture. And there is that concept that Christianity is foreign. It's of it's a western religion. And again, if you're Hindu and you believed in a multiplicity of gods and Jesus is one of many gods and that's fine for a Westerner. But that's not your family's deity. Right? Second thing. Is it - Christianity has been seen, certainly within India, as primarily a religion of the lower caste. That word caste, is a Portuguese word, means linage of your family and it has to do with the classes or the culture of society. And one thing missionaries, early missionaries, observed is that within Indian culture - and part of this has to do with the concept of Karma, right? Is, it was like, if you are in a given state of life, there's a reason for that and typically people marry within their own family, their own caste, their own, their own social strata, their own identified group, right? And so, if Christianity was appealing to the lower or began in the lower caste, it was very difficult for Christianity to move up into the higher caste and it is that is still true today.
The other thing about an Indian understanding if they think in terms of Christianity, is Christianity, is simply seen as being too easy. Again, if you are basically working toward your own salvation through a path toward Enlightenment the idea that you might receive forgiveness and Grace is foreign. Okay? That's a foreign concept. Let alone the exclusivity of the Gospel, Jesus being one of many and some Hindus, is like, well, I love the example of Jesus, and folks like Gandhi have said, you know, if, Jesus was a wonderful profit, wonderful teacher, and so many Hindus will want to just add Jesus to their list of Gods. Yet, Jesus himself said, I'm the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the father, but by me. There's an exclusivity of the gospel. Okay? Now, I wouldn't lead with that, if you're wanting to share Christ with your Hindu neighbor, but it's true. And finally, I'll mention one other, in becoming a Christian from Hindu, is seen as turning its back, by turning your back on your family on your community, on your cultural identity.
So, what can we do? That's what I want to talk about from. So how do we go about sharing Christ with our Hindu neighbors here in Frisco or Prosper, or Little Elm. To begin with, we can initiate conversation. We can practice kindness. We can be a good neighbor. Don't don't underscore that. That's so important. We can offer and receive hospitality. A couple of Christmases ago, I had the privilege, Kim and I, were invited, through a friend, to go have a Christmas dinner with a gentleman who was raised in India from a Sikh background and he invited a lot of his Sikh friends and his neighbors over and they had, that mean, they had, they gave, man the food was awesome. I mean it was a spread to end all spreads. Right? And I was invited, as a pastor, to come and talk about - well, what does, what does, what does Christmas mean from a Christian perspective? It was awesome. Right? And that was that was such an honor, was a privilege. To share a meal - is a major sign of acceptance and that was that was an honor for us to do that.
You can take the initiative. You can invite your Indian friends, co-workers, invite them to lunch. Understand some of their dietary differences, don't, I mean, there's certain things you don't serve. Right? Just as you would with a Muslim, they don't eat pork. There are some other restrictions but but share a meal together. Learn about their culture. Ask them questions about their culture and their religious beliefs. Pray for them. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel and then look for opportunities to share what Jesus means to you. I love what Peter writes in 1 Peter chapter 3 listen, and this gives us great direction for this. 1 Peter 3, Peter says, But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asked you to give the reason for the hope that you have. One of the key things that your Hindu friend will not, in any way, shape or form, be critical of, is your personal testimony in your experience, and what Christ means to you. One thing about the Hindu faith is is a religious experience is highly valued and so they will be very open to hear how your life is impacted by your faith in Jesus. They will be very open to that. And that's what this passage says. In your heart set apart Christ as Lord. In other words, say Jesus, I want my life to be an example for you, says always be prepared to answer to anyone who asked you but notice, here's what the instruction, who asked you to give the reason for the hope that you have verse 15, But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior will be ashamed of their slander. You see, one of the things that we tend to forget, is that the gospel is good news? And the gospel is incredibly good news to the Hindu. They may not perceive it that way or see it that way initially, but it is certainly true.
If you grew up in an environment of having to earn your salvation, of a sense of responsibility, right? For your own karma, in a sense of works, in a sense of the following those paths with the question of am I being a good enough Hindu? Am I honoring my God as I understand it? There is a burden with that. There is a burden of trying to earn your own salvation. The offer of Jesus, is the offer that is so attractive in Matthew chapter 11 and look at verse 28 with me for just a moment, notice what Jesus does. Jesus says, Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, in other words, learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, rest for your soul.

Do not minimize the impact of when you give witness and testimony to the forgiveness and grace of the Lord Jesus. You see Christianity is completely different than Hinduism. In Hinduism, you are seeking to earn your own salvation. In Christianity, we receive salvation as a gift based on what Christ has done for us. Now, here's, here's the difference. The difference is, is in Hinduism we're seeking to do good works so that I might earn salvation. In Christianity, it is having received forgiveness and grace and I am motivated to do good works, out of a sense of gratitude. You see, your Hindu friend, your Hindu neighbor, is seeking that rest for his soul and that is exactly what Jesus came to offer. And so, Jesus offers a freedom from earning your salvation. Jesus comes and he offers, really a life of purpose and a motivation that is empowered by the love of God. I end with this look at Titus 3:4 - 6. This is incredibly good news for those from a Hindu background, For when the kindness and the love of God our savior appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things that we have done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ Our Savior.
I heard a testimony a couple of years ago by a gentleman who was raised in an upper caste Brahman culture in India and he wanted his children to have the very best education. And in the area of India that, that he lived, the very best schools were Christian schools. And so, he put his daughter in a Christian school, and it was in that school that she heard the good news of Christ. And she, she heard the gospel and she came to faith in Jesus and her dad didn't know what to do with that. Her dad, I mean her dad felt that she was rejecting him and her family. She was like, “No, no daddy. No, no, would you just read the gospels? Would you read the story of Jesus? Know you can be you can be a good Indian and follow Jesus.” And so, she challenged him to read the gospels and as he began to read the gospels, and he's he began to read the story of Jesus, he was drawn in. And he saw the attractiveness and he saw the hope that was there, that came through the witness of his daughter, to put his faith in Jesus. You see God's put us in the middle of a community of folks from all different backgrounds, all different backgrounds, but each of us are made in the image of God, desired to have a relationship with God so much, that he sent his son, that we could know him personally. Let us, you and I, begin praying for our neighbors. Let us love our neighbors and look for opportunities to share the gospel with them. You know, one thing about Hinduism. There are a lot of folks that are culturally Hindu, there are variances within Hindu practice. Some are very devout others, not so much, so, some it's more of a cultural identity. They'll show up for the festivals. It's kind of like our Christmas and Easter crowd be honest. See, you have these cultural Hindus, you have cultural Christians, right? You do. Those who claim to follow Jesus but yet their life gives little evidence of that. The same is true for Hindus. And so, when I would challenge you with today and me with, is to examine our hearts and say, have I experienced the forgiveness and the grace of Jesus? Do I have a hope to share with them? If I have, then don't be afraid to share it.

Recorded in Frisco, Texas.
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Frisco First Baptist Church
7901 Main Street
Frisco, Texas 75034