As I visited an older Sikh gentleman in my California city we discussed a number of topics, but were focused mainly on the Bible, Christ, and his Sikh family and traditions. He was familiar with Christianity from his days living in Punjab, India, and was very positive about it. He even seemed to portray himself as a Christ-follower. But he also fully supported and affirmed his Sikh gurdwara (temple) and gurdwara-going family members.
“Of course, all religions simply lead to the same destination,” he said.
Many of us have heard this phrase. I have heard it quite often from Hindu and Sikh friends in India and the U.S., and even from my university students. How do we respond? In my younger, more evangelistically zealous years I may have seen that as my opportunity to launch into a lecture on the uniqueness of Jesus. However, over the years I’ve learned a few things about the phrase and how alongsiders can help, and not hinder, what God wants to do in someone’s life. The following are some points and suggestions for how to understand and respond.
Resist the urge to react.
I have seen well-meaning believers (and have been one of them myself) who want to pounce and squash the idea as quickly as possible. Why? Probably because of our discomfort. The claim that all paths lead to salvation contradicts some core teachings of the Bible. We’re tempted to jump to the Bible’s defense. But ministry from a place of fear or threat is never good ministry.
It is not always a theological statement.
Yes, many Hindus and Sikhs do have a relativistic view of various spiritual pathways, but this may not be the main point. Rather, it is often a statement about relationship, particularly when the relationship is fresh. Knowing that religions can often divide and hurt relationships, Hindus and Sikhs often want to communicate that they value and accept you.
In my time getting to know some Hindu and Sikh Yeshu satsang leaders in India I learned from them the virtue of patience. Can I trust that God will lead people towards a fuller understanding of who he is? Jesus himself did so. He actively went to and accepted people where they were at in their understanding of him. And when they experienced him they experienced transformation. It’s clear that God wants to be worshipped solely, but accepts and journeys with people wherever they are at.
Watch for your part.
Of course, there is a place for us to help guide people. Other Alongsider posts have discussed ways in which to lead Hindus (applicable to Sikhs as well) in Bible studies that help them discover truths about God. We are called to come alongside these seekers of truth, gently asking questions and providing guidance. We do not passively follow behind them.
“All religions simply lead to the same destination” is a phrase you will hear very often as you walk alongside Hindus and Sikhs. However, more often than not, this phrase is meant to preserve relationships and is not an invitation for a theological discussion. It is wise to affirm the value in their religion and allow your relationship to continue to grow and develop.