This article highlights a critical need in dealing with all souls: to be sensitive to their background and to respect cultural differences in our dealings with them. The Lord Jesus showed kindness to each soul He encountered. When culture does not conflict with Scripture, we do not need to address it. Neither western culture or any other culture is “spiritual.” -AJH
When the word India is uttered, we are immediately reminded that it is the largest functioning democracy in the world – the world’s second largest populated country, where the Hindu religion is in the majority. Witnessing to them is special and important. When their religion and customs are different from most of the other countries it attains greater significance. Knowing their background, briefly, will help us while sharing the gospel with them.
Indian culture is an advanced one in almost all areas. Though the Indians may look very unassuming, they have a very rich cultural upbringing and education in general. Their religion is as versatile as their culture. Their music is most advanced and enchanting. They are a very open and accommodative society and are also a peace loving people. Due to monarchy rule and colonization for centuries, a considerable section of the population suffers from an inferiority complex. Though not as prosperous as the West economically, they are a stable community. The story of magic snake charmers, and such, is not true; it is fantasy.
Their religion takes many forms: monotheism, polytheism, animism, etc. It has a mixture of various philosophies and beliefs. In general they are idol worshipers. They believe in miracles, signs, wonders, magic, hypnotism, occult, and other things as well. According to them, there is a good side and an evil side to magic and occult. Added to this is the yogic culture and transcendental meditation; astrology and superstition runs in their veins. They are a devotion-oriented community. They strongly believe that one’s inward devotion to spiritual things must be seen outwardly. So they have a very strong dependence on rituals and customs. The age-old guru [master] and disciple relationship system still exists. In a majority of the cases, apart from their own preferred gods and goddesses, they also have a guru. They address him by different names – master, swami, maharaj, etc. He is their religious advisor and counselor, and plays an important role in their day-to-day life.
They believe that god dwells in every man and so all should be treated as gods. Folding their hands and greeting each other is one form of worshiping the god in each man. These should not make us assume that they are a confused lot. They have their own way of adopting different beliefs and bringing about reasonable and convincing explanations. Their gurus play an important role in this. Their faith in marriage and family bonds are still strong. Though changes have come in, the old rules still apply.
Though Hinduism may sound like the old pagan religions we read about in the Scriptures, the Hindus are quite different. They are intelligent and innovative in their religious beliefs. Their Hindu sacred writings, Vedas, talk about one God and a sacrificial system. The different Vedas are actually different forms of worship.
Indians who live outside their country can either be practicing Hindus or free birds with not much knowledge of the religion. There are also some “cat on the wall” cases. They like both cultures. But given a chance they will prefer the superstitious ways.
Hinduism also has its own concept of salvation and redemption. While we may be communicating the Biblical salvation, the hearer’s mind will understand it in a different way. They believe in “one God, many manifestations.” Hence they normally do not object to the gospel. Without much wisdom from God and earnest prayers, witnessing to the Hindus cannot be effective.
Hindus in general have a high standard of ethical living principles combined with moral convictions. We should not form our judgment based on the prominent exceptions, such as corruption. But, we must treat them with full respect. This does not mean to compromise truths of the Bible or approve of their religion or belief. Though they are on the wrong side of God, we have to be considerate of their beliefs and convictions.
Having said so much about them and their religion, now let us look into the ways of communicating the gospel.
Our dealing needs to be multifacetted: primarily personal, then as a family, and then in public meetings.
As Paul wrote, communicate the pure gospel. Try and show that he/she needs to develop a personal relationship with God.
Communicate the gospel in a conversational method. Avoid lecturing. Deep philosophical interpretations will put them off.
Showing a large Bible or making them read too many verses while interacting will frighten them.
Normally their religion is conveyed/communicated through verbal means. So communicate the gospel in a very simple way to make the hearer understand God’s love. Avoid quoting many references, which, in fact, mean nothing to them.
Do not expect progress to be instantaneous. It is a gradual process. However, effective communication and interaction will motivate the hearer.
Make a difference
Allow them to express their own religious beliefs and fears. Then slowly explain the gospel.
Use words such as believer, Christian faith, and the Word of God. For them, Christianity means a religion and Christian will mean a person who drinks and is merry.
Avoid comparisons of religions or their practices and beliefs. Do not talk about their idols. Don’t blame their fallen nature on their god or religion.
Make them to know that they have fallen short of the glory of God and they need to get their personal relationship reconciled.
Our main concern should be to bring an understanding of their fallen nature, sinfulness, and their need for forgiveness. Hence, explain clearly the importance of Christ’s sacrifice and its relevance.
Teach the truths concerning resurrection. Avoid comparing it with the cycle of births or reincarnations in which they believe.
Things that can strike a cord
They are very particular about rituals and their significance. So the Jewish rituals will strike a cord. Bring about a proper interpretation of these rituals from the New Testament, so that they develop an admiration for the Scriptural pattern.
Fire is more important in most of their religious rituals and offerings. They too, have a similar sacrificial system as in the Old Testament. An effective simplistic interpretation of the same from the New Testament will prove effective.
Try and show the uniqueness of Christ’s sacrifice. Always stick to the simple truths of the gospel. Patience and prayer make things easier.
Since there are enough similarities in their religion to many of the things of the Bible, their response to our efforts may not be positive and immediate. It will take a long time and much perseverance.
Allow the hearer to come back with questions. Avoid having too many believers around during the answering session. A Hindu needs to be dealt with individually. An educated Hindu will not like to come out in public to ask questions.
Don’t be afraid or hesitant to answer tough questions concerning judgment, salvation, hell, and eternal separation. You must make it known that God is concerned about his/her personal life and not religion.
They should know beyond doubt that it is their sin and personal life that makes them hell-bound.
Try and maintain one to one personal communication until such time that you are sure that the Lord is leading you to bring him/her into the open.
Points to keep in mind
Do not push that person into prayers or confessions. Allow the Spirit of God to do this work in His time. Many times they will kneel to pray just to make you happy; culturally they are taught not to be impolite in their responses. Many times their “yes” does not really mean “yes.” It can be said just to please you.
Indians are very sensitive to racial, color, class discrimination, and superiority. Hence do not make them feel that you are superior. Instead show them from the Scriptures that in God’s sight, all are equal. A disciple of Christ is someone special in God’s sight because of Christ. If they find you different from others, it should be because of your regular fellowship with God and His Word.
Once a person is saved, much care and concern should be shown. Do not expect a dramatic change outwardly. Some of these converts would like to retain the outward symbols for a while because of fear of their family and society. Be patient.
Do not force the outward change by asking them to “burn their bridges.” We need to be careful and pray fervently for the change. In some cases, they may even try to wear a cross. This is because their religion has always associated symbols and icons with the power of God and faithfulness. Moreover, these give a feeling of security to a Hindu. The person who has been in touch with this soul right from the beginning needs to discuss this matter personally and explain carefully the truths from the Scripture. The change will come automatically. Never make them feel that they are under pressure. If they attend assembly meetings, the saints should treat them with much love and not be critical. Never show your dislike for their outward adorning either directly or indirectly. Effective counseling will work deeply. Once they have matured they will quickly follow the Scriptural ways.
Food is another area where many well-meaning Christians have caused problems to seeking souls or to new believers. We must allow them to continue what they are used to from their childhood and what they like. When you have them around, it will be better not to keep anything on the table which they may find offensive.
In India, a Christian is “someone who drinks and is merry.” A practicing Hindu will always respect teetotallers.
Separation needs to be different
Since their family ties are strong and in many cases they are dependent on the inheritance from their family, the teaching on Christian separation needs to be handled very carefully. It is better to initiate these teachings after their salvation and baptism; in other cases, either before or after coming into fellowship. This may sound a little unreasonable. However, we need to be very careful in this area. In many cases the newly saved Hindu has not been taught that being a child of God means he should be able to love his enemy. This means they have to be closer to their dear ones. At the same time, these cannot compromise their faith. There have been instances where they have been made to feel that they should abandon their unbelieving dear ones [parents]. Asians are not independent by nature.
As the apostle says, my freedom should not become a hindrance in the life of my weaker brother.
Our genuine concern for their unsaved loved ones must be made known to them in a positive way. When we get the opportunity to meet their unbelieving families, we must try and build a cordial relationship so that the door to initiate the gospel is kept open. Do not be afraid of them, shy away from hearing their views, or meeting them often. Though there is an urgency to convey the gospel, we must resist the temptation of forcing our way. Instead, by prayer we need to wait on the Lord for guidance.
Finally, much prayer and waiting on the Lord for guidance before each meeting is paramount. Please do not force the gospel on them. Allow them to become receptive.
We must confess that the above points are not exhaustive. They are only a brief guideline. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further help.