Do conversations about faith and religion have to be awkward? Is it possible to respectfully agree to disagree over something as important as salvation?
Martin Zerrudo: Tell me if this has happened to you before. You’re at work, at school, or maybe even at home, and the topic of religion comes up. How does it make you feel? Do you freeze and nod along to everything that they’re saying? Or do you let them know just how different your religious views are?
It can lead to some awkward situations, especially when it’s with a loved one or friend, which is why sometimes people find it easier to avoid the conversation altogether. But should we avoid it? Is it possible to agree to disagree over something as important as salvation? Let’s have a Heart and Soul conversation.
Martin: You’re listening to Heart and Soul, a podcast from The Iglesia Ni Cristo, Church Of Christ. I’m your host Martin Zerrudo and I’ll be interviewing young adults from across the world who are living Christian lives but are also dealing with real world problems. This is Heart and Soul.
Today we’ll be talking about how to handle conversations with our friends or loved ones who have different religious views than ours. Our first guest today is Alejandro from Montclair, California. Alejandro is 22 years old, single, and is a college student studying law enforcement.
He’s a former Catholic and recently joined the Iglesia Ni Cristo, Church Of Christ in 2017. He’s here today to talk to us about the conversations he’s had with a friend that actually led him to find the true Church and the difficult conversations he now has and tries to have with his own brother, now that he’s found the truth and is trying to share his faith. Hello, Alejandro, how are you today?
Alejandro Pena: Hello, Brother Martin. I’m pretty good right now. Weather is great. Enjoying life.
Martin: Thank you very much. So, you said weather’s great over there.
Alejandro: Yeah, pretty good.
Martin: Not too cold, I’m sure. And our second guest today is Mark. Mark is from Toronto, Canada right here. He’s actually sitting right in front of me. Mark is 30 years old, single, and works full time at INC Media Services. He actually sits right behind me in our office and he’s also an established wedding photographer and loves to work out with friends and eat out with friends, too, that is very much true.
He’s here to talk about his experiences in sharing his faith and what happened when one of his good friends actually decided to sign up for Bible studies, but unexpectedly changed their mind. Hello, Mark, how are you today?
Mark Diaz: Hey, Martin, how’s it going?
Martin: Doing well doing well. Alright, so our topic for today is about the difficulty and differences we encounter when talking to our friends or loved ones about religion. Now when talking about our religious differences, does every conversation have to end up with someone being right or wrong? Is it okay to respectfully agree to disagree without feeling like you’ve given up?
Well, we’ve actually asked our listeners on Instagram using our hashtag, #heartandsoulconversations. And we asked them when they’re confronted with conflict, how would they handle it? Will they fight or will they flight? And here’s what some of them had to say.
Kristine: If I cherish the relationship, I always try to address the conflict, even if that makes it uncomfortable at times.However, my silence is a clear sign that I do not care. And if I receive that I read it the same way.
Martin: So that was Kristine from the United States. Up next, we have John Kevin from Switzerland. And this is what he had to say.
John Kevin: Depends if I think something good and useful can result from it. If I don’t really care about the reason of the fight, or if the person is really closed minded, and it’s useless to try and argue, then I would just avoid it.
Martin: So again, that’s John Kevin, and lastly, we have Iris from Paris, France, and this is what she had to say.
Iris: It really depends on their situation, if it’s worth fighting for or not, because on the moment, sometimes it’s really hard to control your feelings or your emotions.
Martin: So again, that’s Iris. Listening to our responses it’s clear that it’s not an easy conversation to have when you hear those experiences from other people around the world. Alejandro, how does that make you feel when you hear their sentiments about when they’re engaging those kinds of conversations.
Alejandro: You kind of have to be careful what you’re going to say to those people. Because there’s many emotions going on. So, you’re going to have to tiptoe to get your point across, but even then, it can still eat up the conversation and cause you to have problems with that person, maybe.
Martin: Is it awkward? Does it feel awkward? Would you rather not have those kinds of conversations about faith?
Alejandro: I actually would rather have the conversation. But of course, I would try to do it in a place where it’s more appropriate.
Martin: Right, right. And Mark, you know, when you hear people who say, the conversations kind of going south, I’d rather just avoid it, and I don’t want to deal with it. Can you relate to that?
Mark: I guess, to me, it just really depends who I’m having a conversation with. I know it might not be a factor, but it could be depending on their age, their maturity level, if that’s the topic that they’re willing to have and be open about. Because I know sometimes when we’re a little bit younger, we’re just afraid of what everyone thinks about us, right? And the whole idea of being vulnerable in a faith aspect, not everyone gets.
Martin: Or wants to do…
Mark: Or wants to do, exactly. And I know that for us to growing up in the Church and having friends who don’t understand what that is, for them it’s kind of, just, it’s foreign right? So, for someone like us to express that, that side of our life, I can understand why people are afraid because they don’t want these other people to think that we’re this group of people.
Martin: That’s different.
Mark: That’s different. Exactly.
Martin: Right, right. And speaking about that, because you grew up for most of your life in the Church. For Alejandro, what religion did you grow up in? And what was that like Alejandro, the teachings as a kid, what were those teachings like? What made sense to you? What didn’t make sense to you?
Alejandro: My parents have been Catholic before I was born. I was baptized in it when I was an infant. But years later, my older brother introduced my parents to a Christian church. It was a denomination. We’re going from one church to another when things just didn’t seem right. I remember that the leader of the church was married and he divorced her to marry a younger one. It just didn’t seem right. There was also a time in the same church where one of the pastor’s married a couple, and the groom was drunk.
Martin: The groom was drunk?
Alejandro: Yeah, like literally drunk.
Mark: Oh my gosh.
Martin: In front of everybody who, in the ceremony?
Alejandro: Yes, he was at the front with his wife.
Mark: That’s crazy.
Alejandro: And then after the ceremony had ended, he went around to where we’re eating at. And really, he just didn’t have that sober way to walk.
Martin: And how old were you when you were seeing all this crazy church stuff?
Alejandro: I was already 17 or 16?
Alejandro: Honestly, I kept going. But I told my mom after. Look, I went to church, this is what happened. And even she was thinking about, why are we going to that church then? If this stuff is happening.
Martin: Right, right. It just didn’t feel right going back?
Alejandro: It didn’t feel right. Now after some time, there was nothing there for me to keep going for.
Martin: So, after that experience, did you ever try and look for another church?
Alejandro: No, actually I stopped after some time before I was invited to the church I stopped going there. And going thought was I’ll try to look for God my way. Self teach myself what the Bible try to learn what God wants me to do. And then from there just live my life like that. Not go to church anymore but still obey Him.
Martin: Right. How did you go from trying to teach yourself through the Bible and then eventually learning about the Church Of Christ?
Alejandro: So, since that was my thought, to just self teach myself, my friend Lanuelle he contacted me through Facebook. I was posting verses of the Bible there. He messaged me, ‘Bro you know, I’m gonna just tell you straight forward. I want to invite you to Church, can you go?’ And so by that time since I wasn’t going to another church, I just said, ‘Yeah, sure. When?’ So, he said ‘oh, let’s do this Monday.’
Alejandro: After work, I get home and he picks me up with his brother, and then for sure we head to Church. I remember the lesson was about the love of the Brotherhood. It made total sense to me from that point, but my main concern was about salvation.
Martin: I see.
Alejandro: I wanted to know, what did I have to do to be saved?
Martin: Now before all this, had you and Lanuelle already been friends? Or did he just randomly add you on Facebook and said, hey, man, you want to come to my church?
Alejandro: No, we were friends in high school.
Martin: I see, I see. And had religion ever come up in your conversations?
Alejandro: Yeah, they came up. Sometimes during lunchtime. There was this other guy with us. He believed in the Trinity. And Lanuelle would talk to him about it to like, no, that doesn’t exist. Or there’s just one God.
Martin: Mark in high school did religion ever come up in conversation in the cafeteria?
Mark: Oh, many times, actually. Because there were a lot of us in my previous locale that went to school together in high school. So, our mix of friends, were our Church friends and then we had our friends just from school, but we all sat together. So, everyone would always ask us how do you guys know each other? How are you guys so close? And we would always just tell them we grew up at Church together. They asked all what church do you go to? And we say, oh, the Church Of Christ. And then from there, they’d be like, oh, what do you guys believe in? And we would tell them that we’re Christian, and we follow what’s taught to us in the Bible. And usually it would drop really quickly because after that, after we would mention the Bible, they’d be like, “Oh that’s cool.” And then they go on to the next topic. But then there would also be times when we would invite them to Evangelical Missions. And then that’s where they would learn a little bit more about us. So that’s usually how it went around for us.
Martin: For myself, actually, in high school, also a lot of members of the Church Of Christ in the same high school that I went to. But it was very cliquey, not that we wanted to separate ourselves, but the sections of the school and the cafeteria were split up. But you know, we all lived harmoniously in the four years in high school. Alejandro, what made you decide you know what, this is the Church that I wanted to join?
Alejandro: Actually, I started seeing how people conducted themselves more inside the worship service.
Martin: Wow. What was different?
Alejandro: The worship service was very calm. It wasn’t yelling, or jumping, or people babbling stuff out of their mouth. It was all done in order and I’ve never seen before. That’s something that really caught my attention.
Martin: Right. So you eventually joined the Church. And we now get to the heart of the topic where you’ve now been able to actually share your faith with your parents. And I believe your sister, right? And they’ve joined the Church Of Christ as well?
Martin: But your brother is a different story. Tell us about your brother, your relationship with him.
Alejandro: So my brother he would try to encourage me, to pray to God, but I’m going here to the Church Of Christ. I’ve noticed that he’s actually more just trying to attack more towards us. For lack of a better word.
Martin: You mean, he’s not too fond of you being a member of the Church Of Christ you mean? Like your discussions about faith was more civil before, but now that you’re a part of the Church it’s not so civil?
Martin: I see.
Alejandro: It’s something that I’ve never seen before, even when we were going to the other denominations.
Martin: Right, right. Is he your older brother?
Alejandro: Right now, he’s the oldest one that I have here close.
Martin: I see, I see. Would you consider your relationship with this brother close?
Alejandro: Not too close. When we have topics of religion and stuff, I still try to invite him to Church.
Martin: Tell us about a time Alejandro, where you’ve had a conversation with your brother about religion, that didn’t go so well.
Alejandro: So, one day my parents and I got back from Church. I don’t remember too well, exactly. But I think he did call me. And these were the early days of us being members of the Church, and my parents as well. So, we started getting into a debate about the Church. He kept on telling me that God is not looking for you to be in the Church, he just wants you to obey Him. And so that’s when I told him, well, it’s in the Bible that we have to go to Church. So, by going to Church we are obeying God. So, I would quote these verses from the Bible to him. But he would just keep cutting me off. And that got me frustrated to even keep trying to talk to him about it.
Martin: Right now your conversations with your parents and your sister and trying to explain to them why they should join the Church Of Christ. How did they differ from this kind of conversation with your brother?
Alejandro: In regards with my mom?
Alejandro: I came back from a Bible Study, at 10 at night because I had some questions I wanted to ask the minister. And so, I got home. My mom was still awake, and I explained to her look, this is right here in the Bible. Jesus Christ is not God. And these are all the verses that lead to that point, that Jesus Christ is not God.
Alejandro: That night she went to sleep mad, but after some time that I kept going to Church, she just actually started accepting the fact that yeah, it’s in the Bible. I can’t deny that.
Alejandro: If this is what I believe in, I can’t deny it. So, she started going. Coming with me to Church. And then my mom, little by little started pulling my dad as well. And then he started going to Church as well.
Alejandro: Which is something that he hasn’t done in a long time. And that really, that really got me happy that he started going to Church as well. So, once a mom and dad started coming with me to church, that’s when I approached my sister.
Martin: How did she take it?
Alejandro: The way it happened was she invited us to her church. We weren’t baptized yet. We went to her church. And I try to note down as much verses as I can, because I would note down the verses that the minister would give. And I didn’t get as much, and his topic was just bouncing from one to another. And then there was some things that he would say that was contrary to what the Church Of Christ teaches. And so, after the worship service at her church, I explained to her, look, this is what your pastor said, and this is what the Bible says. Now, what your pastor says, does it coincide with what the Bible says? And she would say, no, it does not. It doesn’t make sense. So, I say, okay, I went to your church. Now, I’m inviting you to mine. And that’s when she started coming to the Church Of Christ.
Martin: Right. You know, I myself, I wasn’t born in the Church. And I remember we were raised Catholic and Baptist, I believe. And I just remember going to church as a kid in those churches or those religions and it was just chaos. Kids running around, adult’s kind of shouting or yelling, sometimes clapping. And in my head, okay, I guess this is what worship is supposed to be like.
But it really didn’t make sense to me. And then eventually when my mom brought me and my older brother to the Church Of Christ, just in the Children’s Worship Service, I said, wow, this is so different from the Sunday school that I used to go to where everybody’s just running around. And then the adult worship service was super solemn. And it was such a new thing for me. And I was 11-10 years old, wow, this is actually what a Worship Service is supposed to be like. So, I can definitely see where you’re coming from. But knowing that your brother did not take to what you were talking about the way that your parents did, the way that your sister did, how did that make you feel that he wasn’t seeing the things that your other family members were able to see?
Alejandro: It would get me mad. Sometimes I think that it’s probably just his stubbornness.
Alejandro: Or his ego, that blinds him to not want to come to the Church Of Christ. And so, if that’s the case, then I can’t do much there. That’s something that he just has to deal with.
Martin: But what made you so angry? What was it that you needed him to understand? What was the urgency there?
Alejandro: My urgency for him, it really is regarding salvation.
Martin: You want him to be saved, and you’re worried that he wouldn’t be?
Martin: Yes. I’d like to go to an article now from the Reno Gazette Journal. And they actually pose this question, on talking about having nonreligious friends or friends who have different religion than we do. And it says if our religion is the only right way, why should we be friendly with someone who is surely going to hell? How can we reconcile when we know that our friends’ worship is to a false god? As friends is it not our duty to bring him or her to the right path?
And so, the journal is asking this question that if we have friends or family members who are not believing in the things that we believe in, and we know, and we believe that what we’re doing will lead us to salvation, shouldn’t we try anything and everything to make sure that our friends and our family members find the truth? Because, like the journal said, one person is going to go to hell and one person is going to go to heaven. It’s a very uncomfortable prospect to pose to somebody who either isn’t religious or believes in another religion where they think they’re the ones that are going to be saved.
And now I want to bring Mark into the conversation. Mark, you’re a member of the Church Of Christ. You were born and raised in the Church. I’m sure you’ve had many opportunities to share your faith with a lot of different people. One person in particular your friend Andre, tell us about how you guys met how you’re eventually able to invite him to Worship Service.
Mark: So Andre, and I, we met through kickboxing. And I was fairly new to the activity. And usually in the classes, you partner up with someone, and so we were partners, and you know, he was just asking where I was from what I do for a living. And then when I mentioned the Church, he was like, oh, I do know some brethren from your Church. So, he actually invited me out for dinner one time and he was he said, maybe we should grab a bite sometime after working out or something. So, I told him, yeah, absolutely. So that time we did end up going out to eat. He was the one that actually asked all the questions, and I didn’t even bring it up at all, other than the fact that I work for the Church now.
Martin: What were some of the questions that he had?
Mark: He just said, ‘Oh, when do you go to Church?’. And I told them I usually attend on a Thursday early morning on a Wednesday night. On the weekend, either Saturday or Sunday. He said “Oh, so you go twice a week.” And I said, “Yes, there’s a midweek service and we have a weekend service.” And then he just straight up asked, “Would it be okay if I came with you sometime?”
Martin: Oh, wow.
Mark: And I said, “Absolutely.” I asked him too, “What faith did you grow up in? Where do you come from?” And he told me that he grew up his family’s Catholic, and that that’s what they grew up in. But he told me that they don’t always go to church together, it’s just depending on their work schedules. But at that time, too, he hadn’t attended in a very long time. And I asked him, you know “What do you believe in? What’s your faith?” And he told me that “You know, I I’d like to think that all good people will go to heaven. You do good to those who need it and it’ll come back to you.” So, I said “Yeah, you know, whenever you do want to come, the door is open.” So, he asked me “Okay, when is the next time you’re going to go to Church?” I said, “Actually, I’m going to Church tomorrow morning.” And he said, “Is it okay if I came with you?”
Mark: And I said “Just letting you know, this is at 5:30 A.M. in the morning. When people are usually sleeping.”
Mark: “I’m not forcing you. And I know that’s a very early time to commit too. So, if you wanted to go to another time, absolutely.” And he said, “No, I want to go with you in the morning.” So, we did.
Martin: What was his reaction to the worship service?
Mark: Well, his first reaction after service was, “Wow, I didn’t know there were actually people that woke up at that time to go to Church in the morning.”
Martin: Right? It’s probably packed.
Mark: It’s fairly full. I remember the worship service at that time, it was about Thanksgiving.
Martin: Right, right, giving thanks.
Mark: Giving things and remembering our blessings throughout the year.
Martin: Oh that’s a great lesson.
Mark: And bringing it all back to God. So, I remember sitting there and I thought, wow, this is a really, really good lesson. Afterwards I asked him, “What did you think?” And he, the same thing as Alejandro said, he mentioned that it was very solemn. It was very peaceful. He actually for a moment was like, “I never realized what it felt like to just sit with your thoughts in a place where it was quiet. And I could just hear myself.”
Martin: Right. And that’s the great thing, just pause right there. For our listeners who maybe are not members of the Church Of Christ, who have never been able to experience, worshiping God in a house of worship of the Church Of Christ. Say the worship services at 6 o’clock at night. Doors are open roughly around half hour before. And you really have an opportunity to sit in the sanctuary, like Andre said, “with your thoughts to just meditate.”
A lot of studies out there that says, the mindfulness aspect of it, the mental benefits of just being able to reflect peacefully and affirm yourself positively is so beneficial in all aspects. In your work, in your mental health, in everything. And so being able to do that, like you said, twice a week. You get to worship God, you get to pray and you get to sit there in your thoughts and meditate. So, when did he decide he wanted to join the Church?
Mark: He didn’t decide that he wanted to join the Church. But he did decide that he wanted to learn about the Church.
Martin: Oh, I see.
Mark: From the beginning I told him you know, “Whatever questions you have, or if there’s any time that you need some clarification on something, we can always talk to the minister.” And that led him to coming to one of the evangelical missions. And it was after that, that first one that he attended that he said that I’d like to learn more about your Church. “Can I sign up for Bible studies?”
Martin: Right. Now when we say sign up for Bible studies, that just means for those who aren’t members of the Church, that it’s 28 lessons. Completely free, with the minister or worker of the local congregation that’s nearest to you. Which I’m sure they did for Andre.
Martin: Works around your schedule on when you’re able to attend the Bible studies. And at the end of the 28 lessons it doesn’t mean that you automatically become a member of the Church Of Christ. It’s a really great way to continue your spiritual journey. How did that make you feel that your friend who you met at the gym, was so eager to learn about the Church? And then signed up for Bible studies.
Mark: I felt great. I’ve actually never experienced having a friend, thankfully a close friend now, interested on their own to know what we do in the Church and what the Church is all about.
Mark: So, for me to not even have to push anything on him, but just kind of be there with him and have him listen. It was nice to know that maybe God is using me as an instrument to let him at least learn about our faith.
Martin: Right. I remember, because we’re also good friends, you’d bring him to our hangouts. We’d all have dinner together, we’d hang out. He’d help us out with some of our shoots here in the studio. Really, really nice, great guy. Still, today we hang out sometimes. But then something happened. He changed his mind. What happened.
Mark: Halfway through the lessons, I want to say he maybe got through five or six lessons and he sent me a text message unexpectedly after one of the Bible studies. I had dropped him home. And then when I got home I had this really long text from Andre. And in his text, first he thanked me and he said, “I really appreciate our friendship and you’ve been so kind and bringing me to all the lessons and helping me whenever I needed it, and I’m so thankful to know that I have someone that is very faith driven.” And then near the middle of the text message he said, “unfortunately I’m gonna have to put a hold on learning about your Church, not because I disagree with it or I’m upset about anything but I don’t feel ready to keep going.” And he mentioned that a big part of it is that he felt like he was betraying his family who he actually did mention that he was going to church too, and there wasn’t any factor of them stopping him. They kind of just said, “whatever makes you happy, then we’re there for you.” But I think a part of him from what he was saying, he just said that he was abandoning I guess the roots of his family. So he said that he wasn’t ready to fully commit and he was hoping that we can all still be friends. “You’ve introduced me to a great pool of brethren and community that I never thought existed.”
Martin: Right, right.
Mark Diaz: He said “I hope that I can still hang out with you guys.” He said “If there’s another opportunity for me to want to learn or to continue on in learning” he said “I hope I can come back to your Church and I hope that this doesn’t end anything or change anything.” And I said “Oh absolutely not. The doors will always be open for you and the friendship and everyone that you’ve met continues. And it doesn’t make us think any less of you” because I think he was worried too that…
Martin: He’d be ostracized.
Mark: Exactly, for believing something else.
Martin: Alejandro I’d like to ask. This concept of betrayal; do you feel like your brother made you feel like you joined a different Church than what he was used to when he used to go to with you. You were able to get your parents to join the true Church, and then your sister. Do you feel like there’s that element of “you kind of betrayed what we used to have as a family because you converted everybody to a different Church than what we grew up in.”
Alejandro: Yeah, that could be a possibility too. He probably feels isolated from us, in a way. For that reason that could lead him to think that this is probably not the right Church.
Martin: And that’s a difficult thing right. It becomes, not just a difference of belief, but it comes very “your team versus my team.”
Martin: Which is why I think some of our listeners, they kind of stray away from it. You can even hear from the social media comments was that “it’s not worth my time. I’m gonna share my faith but if I know it’s not going to go anywhere. If they already seem very adversarial than I’d rather not.” Thankfully for Mark, you were able to have a friend who was eager to learn; who, even though they were very much entrenched in their family’s faith, was willing to be open minded about it. But you know unfortunately not everybody is. Mark did you feel like you failed when he said he wasn’t gonna join or that he wasn’t ready to fully finish all the lessons yet?
Mark: I didn’t feel, I wasn’t discouraged. I think I was more hopeful. It wasn’t completely an end to something because at least in a way I was able to share something that’s been a part of my life.
Mark: That’s huge to me. So no I don’t think I failed in that sense.
Martin: Actually my dad, who eventually became a member of the Church Of Christ after 20 plus years of having conversations similar to the conversations you have Alejandro with your brother, he very much criticized why we went to Church, why we spent so much time there, why we had to go to Church and not just be a good person and be saved. And again like your situation Alejandro, it was me, my brother and my mom. It was the three of us that were members of the Church Of Christ and he was not. So he very much also felt isolated.
I’m sure there was a level of betrayal there where we would always choose worshiping God over anything else. But the thing is like you Mark a no now is not a no forever. And despite maybe the difficult conversations you’ve had, Alejandro, the difficult conversations I’ve had with my dad and for any of our listeners who are members of the Church Of Christ, who have had multiple difficult conversations with people who we care about, who we wanted to share our faith with, it’s not a no forever. And like Mark said, don’t feel so discouraged that because it’s not happening right now that it won’t ever happen.
Martin: There’s still value, very much so in just being able to share our faith in those kind of conversations. Now, I’d like to play one more clip, and this is from Ian from the United Kingdom, and this is what he has to say about having conversations with those who have different religion.
Ian: When I’m speaking to someone about my faith, and they don’t agree, I try not to get too worked up about it. As a member of the Church Of Christ, it’s my duty to share my faith. And if someone has a different opinion, then I tried to have an open mind about it, just so I can avoid causing drama. At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to have their own opinions. But I know that once I try, then I’ve done my part.
Martin: Now I’d like to bring in Minister of the Gospel and show favorite of course brother Richie Juatco. Now, Brother Richie what spiritual advice would you give to our listeners who do find themselves in a similar situation. How do we share our faith, stand up for our faith without seeming like we’re judging others or as Ian would say causing drama? Is there comfort in knowing that even if they don’t see eye to eye in how we believe and how we will attain salvation that we can still respectfully agree to disagree knowing that we’ve done our part in sharing our faith?
Brother Richie: To respectfully disagree with someone, we always want to do it in a way to where what we’re merely doing is following what is written in the Bible. That’s why it’s interesting to hear the conversations, hear some of the experiences of Alejandro and Mark and even yourself Martin. There is a lot of work to put into it.
When you speak about your religion, when you speak about your faith. And it is also interesting to hear some that maybe say that they don’t want to put in that effort if they feel that it’s not going to go anywhere. Now, engaging in conversation regarding religion and faith is something that is not only encouraged for us, but rather instructed by the Lord Jesus Christ to those whom He recognizes as His disciples are those inside His Church. He’s the one that describes us in a particular way, as Christians and what our responsibility is. And because we want to be driven by our faith, I will read what is recorded here in Matthew chapter 5, 14 to 16. What is His instruction? What is it that He describes us as? Our Lord Jesus Christ says:
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives a light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.
[Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV]
Brother Richie: So, it’s not only encouraged. It’s not only something that we can do, an option. No, it’s an actual instruction. Our Lord Jesus Christ says “You are the light of the world, let your light shine.” And the best way for us to shine is to share our faith; to tell people what we’ve learned, to tell people the Biblical truths that we were able to hear. But in our sharing, we should not disregard the Bible’s instruction on how to conduct ourselves. Because it’s true, there might be some who, when they hear it, they might respond in all different ways. They might be angry as we heard in some of the experience of those that are on the panel. But what is it that we’re taught? How is it that we conduct ourselves? I’m going to read again, also what’s written because that is what is our guide. Here in First Peter chapter 2, the verses 17, it says:
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor, the emperor.
[1 Peter 2:17 NIV]
Brother Richie: Now here we have a set of instructions, a set of guidelines and notice it says, show proper respect to everyone. So the term, everyone, includes even those that don’t agree with our beliefs. As I heard in Alejandro’s, when he explained about his friend Lanuelle, he was able to notice that even though people were not agreeing with what he was saying he was able to keep calm. He was able to still show respect. And that caught his attention. There might be others that get really frustrated, get really angry if somebody doesn’t agree with them, but the Bible makes clear we should show proper respect to everyone.
Now since we are discussing, so we want to show proper respect to everyone. Since what we are discussing in particular is dealing with friends that have a different faith than us, or even converting others to different religions, we need to understand how that’s done. How is conversion done or having faith or belief grow in someone, because if one doesn’t understand that it can lead to frustrations, it can lead to people maybe being angry with each other. If one shares their faith and the other person doesn’t believe or converts then they feel that they failed.
What is that process of having a belief grow in someone who who didn’t have it before, the true faith. I’ll read here from First Corinthians chapter 3, verses 6, Apostle Paul clarifies he says:
I planted the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plan, grow.
[I Corinthians 3:6 Good News Translation]
Brother Richie: So to have that grow in somebody, it is really God, that does it. Everyone’s just doing their part. If someone shares their faith, they’ve done their part, right? If that person believes, if that person joins the Church Of Christ, that will be part of the entire process and it will be God Himself, that will make that grow in them. So we have Mark, where he shares his faith, and then ultimately at the end of his story he said that his friend did not convert or did not join the Church. He did his part. And who knows? Maybe that that seed that was planted in his mind, hopefully will grow down the line. But then he was able to at least do what was instructed to him. We know that if one is going to join, they’re going to join the faith, they’re going to join the Church, which the Bible makes clear Church Of Christ, or the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have to understand, how is it that one is able to even join the Church. Again, let’s go to what’s recorded for clarity. I’ll read here in 1 Corinthians 12, 18. It says:
Brother Richie: “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” [1 Corinthians 12:18 (Translation)]
Brother Richie: So it really is, it’s God. It’s God that is going to call someone to have the true faith. It’s God that’s going to add them to join the Church. Therefore no one should get frustrated. No one should get too angry or even the other extreme, where someone says “I’m not going to put the effort in any way because you actually touched upon something when you said sometimes people don’t want to judge. So they’re going to not say anything. That’s actually the opposite because if you don’t say anything thinking, “Oh this person’s going to, nothing’s going to happen anyway.” Now you have judged. You’re the one that judges if that person is going to have the faith or not. Leave it to God.
How is it that you leave it to God? Just follow the instructions. What we do is we just do our part. We speak up. So we speak up we share our faith, and it will be God that ultimately converts people to have the proper faith. We just do our part. Now, there are times where beliefs, they’re going to contradict. That is the one thing that many people maybe have not observed. Everyone wants to do what’s right.
Mark in his story he said that his friends said “all good people will go to heaven.” That’s his belief. Okay then great, but who is good? What some people think is good is different from what other people think is good. So there will be, and we can see there’s a lot of different churches. They all believe that they’re doing what is right, but they’re all doing things that are different. They have different names, they have different beliefs, they have contradicting ways of worshipping God. So there is going to be teachings that are going to contrast, are going to contradict.
So in doing our part, should we be timid to tell the truth, if it is in stark contrast to what others presently believe. Or, a question that others have is should we join in what we know is already wrong just to help them come to the light? Well the Bible is clear regarding what our focus should be in shining as lights. I’ll read from Ephesians chapter 5 verses 10 to 11, it says:
Try to discover what the Lord wants of you having nothing to do with futile works of darkness, but exposing them by contrast. [Ephesians 5:10,11 Jerusalem Bible]
Brother Richie: So, like we said, when we do share our faith, if we’re trying to figure out what really is the truth, there are going to be times where we can avoid exposing what is false, by contrast of what is true. So the whole purpose is to do what God wants us to do. So we’re not just trying to please others. We’re not just trying to build relationships for any reason, but we’re actually trying to help others.
In Alejandro’s account, he shared, he learned something himself, and that is natural. When we learn something that we feel is valuable, we feel is important, of course we want to share it with others. From any level of value, it could be a great restaurant, could be a great movie, whatever, all the way to “This is the way that you’re going to be saved” you inherently want to share that with others. So, we can see he shared it with his parents. He shared it with his sister. They were able to realize this is good.
Now he shared it with his brother. His brother currently right now has not softened up to the idea of hearing but he’s still following. Alejandro’s following the teachings of God. That’s what we have to do. Leave that leave that to God.
So engaging in conversations regarding religion, faith, is something really that strengthens our own faith, because if we engage in conversation, and if we’re talking about it, then it reinforces what we have. And why is it that we should do that.This instruction, and I’ll read here in 1 Peter 3, 15. It says:
Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are,
[1 Peter 3:15 The Message]
Brother Richie: The reason why we should be calm, the reason why we should not be frustrated, the reason why we should speak up is because we should know our faith. There are some that will get frustrated when we do engage in conversation with them, because they might not know their faith. They might know what they were taught, but the basis of it, they might. So that when we do talk about that, when we do speak about that, that can get frustrating to them. But we leave that to God. We do our part and we hope and pray that He will just as He has mercy on us, giving us the opportunity to actually know the truth written in the Bible, that they too will have a chance and they will have that best opportunity to answer His call.
Martin: Definitely thank you so much Brother Richie. And for our listeners who are eager to share their faith and are inspired of course by the verses that Brother Richie has read from the Bible, there are a lot of tools online that make sharing our faith and make those conversations that much more easier, that much more simpler. If you go to the website incmedia.org, right on the right side is a big red button that says questions.
One of the main reasons why sometimes people avoid having the conversation about different religions is they don’t always have the answer. Well tell them to go to incmedia.org, put in their question and then they’ll get a response and it’s totally open to whatever interests or questions you may have about faith, about spirituality, about teachings in the Bible; it’s all there for you. If they’d rather listen to a podcast, there’s this podcast, the Gods message podcast. If they want to find something about their family or their kids if you’re a little bit older, there’s Faith and Family, a lot of content that shows why we as members of the Church Of Christ live the way that we are and how we act as Christians in the Christian family unit.
If you have questions about depression about solving problems in their life that they’re trying to find the answers to, we have a show called The Solution. Everything that you find on incmedia.org is tailored to make that conversation that much easier. And it’s just more tools to Brother Richie’s verse that he read as the ones who are working on the field, there’s more tools that we use. You’re not just using your hands when you’re planting a seed, right? You have tools. You have other things that will help you to make sure that when it’s time for God to make it grow, that has been prepared the right way. And that website not only helps people understand our faith but also as Brother Richie said helps us in our faith to remind us why we ended up joining the Church in the first place.
Now before we close the episode I’d like to ask two final questions to Alejandro. Hopefully you’re able to continue to have those conversations with your brother. Maybe he’ll have a chance to hear this podcast right now if you send the episode to him. If he was listening right now Alejandro, what would you say to your brother?
Alejandro: I would tell him, “Bro this is my faith that I’ve learned and I’ve really have held on to, and I know this is something that has helped me for the better, in my life. And so that’s the reason I share it with you, because I do love you like my brother that you are, and if God wills, I hope you one day join the Church as well.”
Martin: Thank you Alejandro. And Mark, if Andre were to be listening right now, what would you say to him?
Mark: I’d say “I know that you are looking for peace, and that you want to live a happy life, but what if you can take that happiness to another level.”
Martin: So we want to thank everybody for joining us today. Thank you, Alejandro for sharing your story, your inspiring moments in your life, and the challenges as well, giving us a closer look into the conversations that you’ve had in your life. Thank you so much Alejandro.
Alejandro: Thanks Martin, it’s been good sharing my life experiences here.
Martin: It was a great conversation. Thank you Mark, for sharing your story as well.
Mark: Thanks for having me.
Martin: Thank you for joining us and for introducing us to your friend. Andre if you’re listening, door’s always open not only in the house of worship, but also in joining us whenever we go out. Thank you Brother Richie again. Most importantly, thank you so much for providing us and the listeners with spiritual guidance on how to navigate probably one of the hardest things that we have to face in life and in being able to be brave enough to shine as lights, to share our faith but confidently, and compassionately converse that with other people. Thank you so much Brother Richie.
Brother Richie: Oh, thank you, thank you for giving us a chance to join.
Martin: And for all of our listeners, please follow our hashtag on Instagram, #heartandsoulconversations to stay up to date with all things Heart & soul. That’s it from us today. Depending on when you’re listening to this, hope you have a happy New Year. Hope we were able to help, hope you were able to connect and we hope you’ll join us next time, ready to listen with all your heart and soul. Take care.