Last week we began looking at how best to witness to people of false religions. Today I want to tell you to love people of false religions.
When you talk to people of false religions it is all too easy to get angry with them. After all, they are denying the truths that you consider exceedingly precious. And there is a sense in which you should be angry – if you are to be God-like in your behaviour then the things that make God angry should make you angry and false religion does make God angry. But God also loves his enemies. The clearest example for you is in your own life. When you were a rebel against God, he loved you and sent his son to die for you. So it is not surprising that Jesus tells you to love your enemies if you claim to be one of God’s children: ‘But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:44-45).
Another reason to love those of false religions is because often this is the way that they are won over to Christianity. Before people will listen to your teaching, they will usually look at your behaviour. If you behave with hatred, anger and revulsion towards those who do not agree with you they will usually respond in the same way. But when you show genuine love and respect for others, then you say a lot to commend Christianity. This provokes them to listen to what you say and then become Christians. Peter makes this very point: ‘Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us’ (1 Peter 2:12).
Loving your enemies is also particularly helpful with religions that teach that Christians hate them. The Jehovah’s Witness official magazine writes: ‘Jehovah’s enemies are recognized by their intense dislike for His people and the work these are doing. For they would break it down and have all Jehovah’s Witnesses sentenced to jail or concentration camps if they could…Do we not hate those who hate God? We cannot love those hateful enemies…’ But when you as a Christian respond with love toward a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it casts doubt upon the teaching of their church. They thought that you were supposed to hate them, but you don’t. They then start to wonder if their church got that wrong, maybe they’ve got other things wrong as well.
So do you show love to those of other religions? Or are you not like your father in heaven?