Hinduism is the major religion of India and Nepal. The diaspora of Hinduism means great populations of Hindus are found in almost every part of the world With one out of every seven people of the world being Hindu there are numerous occasions to share Christ with Hindus. The need for Hindus to hear Christ in the right way is great. The following article is meant to give you some practical suggestions in sharing Christ with Hindus. Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (II Corinthians 9:6)
I) We Must First Listen
When we share Christ with a Hindu we are eager to tell them the message that will save them. It is the most important message for them to hear that Christ is their God. He loved them. He died for them. It makes sense that we want to share this with them right away.
Think of the Hindu that you are sharing with as a cup of water and think of your gospel message as water that you want to pour into that cup. You want to share your message. But the cup of your Hindu friend is already full. He has his ideas, his philosophy, his religious ideals and convictions. What happens when you pour water into a glass that is already full. When you pour water into a full glass it runs out. Because the Hindu cup is full your message will overflow like water poured into a full glass and will not fill the cup.
If that same glass is half empty you can pour in significant amounts of water into that glass. Think of genuine listening to your Hindu friend as allowing your friend to pour out from their full glass into your glass. If they sense you genuinely are making an effort to understand and appreciate their ideas you have now prepared them to hear what you have told them about Christ.
Chandra was an evangelist among Hindu who would first listen to the Hindu point of view and appreciate what is good before sharing Christ. Hindus loved Chandra because he used examples from Hindu writings. He would highlight the Hindu principles and in suitable ways compare them to Christ. He was always referring to the life of Christ when he interacted with Hindus. When they invited Chandra to speak at Hindu gatherings he would tell about the Hindu saints and compare them to the life of Christ.
Chandra’s daughter shared how Chandra applied this principle of letting the Hindu first pour out when she heard him preach at a Hindu meeting when he addressed a group of Hindu scholars. She observed that Chandra lectured forty minutes but never even mentioned Christ. However, she found that in the last twenty minutes he spoke in such a wonderful manner that he proved Jesus Christ to be the only person having the ability to save sinners. The majority of the Hindus listening accepted his views.
We will always find Hindu more open to our message when we genuinely seek to understand what is there position. We will find a listening ear and open heart when we seek to understand the perspective of our Hindu friend.
II) Appreciate what is good in Hinduism
What goes hand in hand with listening to your Hindu friend in creating openness to Christ is to appreciate what is genuinely good in Hinduism. One of the factors to closing the Hindu heart from hearing the gospel has been the practice of evangelists in pointing out and emphasizing the negatives in Hinduism. So many times the Hindus are on the defensive when the evangilst focuses on the “evil of idolatry” or the “darkness of Hinduism.” Instead of opening the heart of the Hindu this negative approach brings about defensiveness.
From the vantage point outside of Hinduism we may see Ganesh, the elephant headed god and see an offensive form. It may be our tendency to right away criticize our friend for participating in the Ganesh festival, which centers on the Ganesh figure. Criticizing our Hindu friend for taking part in the “festival of evil” is more likely to bring them to a position of defensiveness.
How can you find something good in such an idolatrous festival? How will you be able to appreciate the good and bring an opportunity to witness of Christ? In many homes the story of Ganesh is told (there are many versions of the Ganesh story) in a way that emphasizes family values. In some stories the boy Ganesh had his head severed (and replaced with an elephant head) as a result of obeying the instructions of his mother. Many teach this as a story to affirm the need for children to obey their parents.
Now we have found something that we can appreciate. The teaching that children obey their parents is a value that we can appreciate. We can sincerely complement the quality of family values and children that are taught to obey their parents found in the vast majority of Hindu homes. One our Hindu friend has sensed that we are able to appreciate what is good in Hinduism they become more open to Christ.
If we have appreciated the family values of the Hindu home we will easily be able to share with them that this kind of teaching we in Christ appreciate. We can share with them that we find that teaching in the New Testament (Eph. 6:1) “Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” You will find that not only has your Hindu friend become quite willing to listen to the New Testament on children obeying parents, but also they will, after your appreciating what is good in Hinduism, become open to what you believe about Christ.
Again using the example of Chandra we can see how a Hindu will become more open to the Gospel message when we look for what is good in Hinduism and appreciate those good points. A Hindu Professor, describes Chandra and his preaching. “His method of preaching, unlike the traditional method of locating and pointing out flaws and loopholes in the other religions and harping upon them day in and day out and in all places, was that of placing in juxtaposition the best in every religion and giving a requisite exposition to the comparative excellence in Jesus and his gospel of love and compassion, fraternity and fellow feeling.”
We are not limited to children obeying parents in our appreciation of Hindus. There are many aspects of morality, teaching against alcohol intoxication, opposing fornication and other forms of immorality. Using this approach does mean you never address issues like idolatry with your Hindu friend, but it means you always begin your interaction of a positive first step.
III) Hindu Community issues
One very real problem we face when sharing Christ with a Hindu is the problem that Christianity in India is perceived as a caste community. In the past those who belong to oppressed social economic communities have sometimes become Christians in mass. They changed their names, taking on Christian names and left behind their caste identity taking on a Christian community identity. There have been a variety of explanations regarding mass movements to Christ from the lower socio- economic communities, but the explanation in part stems from the fact that those from the oppressed classes have seen becoming Christian as a step up on the social ladder.
In contrast the caste Hindu has a very established position in Indian society. Many people who are part of the caste Hindu (includes 600 million people) often want Christ but do not want to leave their community. For them becoming part of the Christian community would be a step down the social ladder. They receive opposition from family, not because of their worship of Christ, but because of the severe social problems that come in a change of community identity.
A Hindu that comes from a vegetarian community often has a change of dietary customs when joining the Christian community that isolate them from their family. We should as far as possible remove every obstacle and stumbling block that prevents the caste Hindu from coming to Christ. We should let the cross of Christ become the only stumbling block for the Hindu, not social issues. (Romans 14:13) We should not make it difficult for the caste Hindus who are turning to God (Acts 15:19).
We need to emphasize to the caste Hindu not to leave their community but stay as an obedient believer in Christ within their family and caste community to lead their family and community to Christ. We have New Testament examples where believers stayed in their community and we can use these scriptures to encourage our Hindu friends. The Bible teaches the believer not to be unequally yoked, i.e. for a believer not to marry and unbeliever. That does not mean that the Hindu believer has to marry outside their community. When the Hindu believer marries another believer from in their own caste community they have a much easier time remaining as salt and light to their community.
God cared about the demon-possessed man from Gerasenes and through him saved his entire family (Mark 5:12-20). When the evil spirits of this demon-possessed man left him, he begged to follow Jesus, but Jesus wanted him to go home and tell his entire family about the gospel. In this way, the family would have the witness of Christ.
When the Italian army officer, Cornelius came to faith he did not come out of his Italian family and community and live as the Hebraic Christians. Cornelius remained in his social network and through him his entire household was saved. (Acts 10:23-25) Cornelius had invited all his relatives and his close friends when Peter came to his home to speak of Christ.
When Paul found Lydia the businesswomen open to Christ in Philippi, she did not forsake her community (Acts 16:14-15). Right after Lydia came to Christ, she led her entire family to faith in Christ. God’s grace came to the Philippi jailer and through him his entire family came to Christ. (Acts 16:31) In the same way God can use the Hindu who remains inside his family and social community. When this happens the entire family can come to Christ.
House Church will appeal to a Hindu who does not want to join a new social community. Many Hindus will be excluded from their social network if they worship in a traditional Christian community church that has non-vegetarian eating customs. The believing Hindu will be in a better position to worship in a house church of believers in Christ that are not identified by their family and community as a separate social community. These house churches follow the New Testament pattern of church. (Acts 16:15, 31-34, Acts 5:42, Col. 4:15, Philemon 2). The family and social community of the Hindu will provide a natural relationship for worship and church group.
IV) Stay Christ Centered
When we witness to our Hindu friends it is important to put the focus on Christ. A small portion from the book by Stanley Jones relating his experience in India brings out the value of the Christ centered approach.
In writing about sharing Christ with Hindus Jones says, “ I found the battle almost invariably being pitched in three places: The Old Testament, or Western Civilization, or the Christian Church. I had the ill defined but distinctive feeling the heart of the matter was being left out. Then I saw that I could take my stand at Christ and before the non-Christian world refuse to know anything save Jesus Christ and him Crucified. Then I saw this is where I should have been all the time. I saw that the Gospel lies in the person of Jesus, that he himself is the Good News that my one task was to live and to present him. My task was simplified.
But it was not only simplified it was vitalized. I found that when I was at the place of Jesus I was every moment upon the vital. Here at this place all the questions of heaven and earth were being settled. He was the one question that settled all others.
A Jain lawyer, a brilliant writer against Christianity, arose in one of my meetings and asked me a long list of questions regarding things of the Old Testament. I replied, I think I can answer your questions but I do not feel called to do so. I defined Christianity as Christ. If you have any objections to make against him I am ready to hear them and answer them if I can.” (Christ of the Indian Road p.2-4)
In sharing faith with a Hindu bring the initial focus to Christ. Do not become side tracked by other issues. These other question the Hindu has regarding the Old Testament or practices of Christians should be put off until Christ is fully presented to the Hindu.
When explaining sin to a Hindu it is better to avoid examples such as, idol worship is wrong. It is better to use personal examples such as, you may have promised something to your mother and broken that promise. That is sin and separates you from God. A Hindu has no doubt broken their own moral code regarding honesty or respecting parents. Bringing this to the Hindu mind is more likely to bring genuine repentance than a broad statement such as all idol worship is wrong.
Remember that Christ is not a foreign god for the Hindu. Christ was active in creation and Jesus is the creator and maker of your Hindu friend. God created your Hindu friend for fellowship, and that fellowship is broken as a result of sin. Christ loves the Hindu and knows intimately each Hindu and has the number of hairs on each Hindu numbered. He died for them and the image of God in the Hindu is restored when he accepts Christ who loved him and died for him.
V) Fit the context of the situation
There are a large number of diverse thoughts within Hinduism and a large collection of Hindu writings. The major emphasis in Hinduism despite the large number of ancient texts is by oral tradition. There are thousands of Swamis having their own ashram or spiritual retreat center that emphasize a variety of themes. All of this leads to a great diversity in Hinduism.
Because of this great diversity there is not one theme that can be used in sharing Christ with Hindu. In one situation you may want to emphasize peace as Raju did in this example. Raju wrote: Raman shared at our prayer meeting that Mona has been saying that she needs “shanty”/peace. I told him that my testimony is about peace. So, we went to see her that afternoon. She was so cordial with us. Raman told her that we came to talk to her about peace. As I shared, she listened so intently. At the end, she asked me, what did I pray that I was able to find peace. I was able to share so openly with her. Raman prayed for her at the end. She is very close to the Kingdom!!!
To share the Gospel with Hindus we need to think about what is unique to each situation and adjust accordingly. Just as the example with Mona required a Biblical response in the area of peace the next situation could require a different approach. Beside peace, some common themes for Hindus include, Truth, Vegetarian Diet, Yoga, Herbs, Knowledge, Wealth, purity, Ancient Tradition, One god thousand names, Meditation, etc.
One example that has come recently from the Kamma community is from Prasadrao. He is adjusting his testimony to fit each situation. He has recently led dozens of Hindus to Christ and has planted many house churches among Hindu new believers. Prasadrao shares his testimony adjusting it to the context of each situation.
VI) Sermon on the Mount appeals to Hindus
The Sermon on the Mount appeals to the religious sensitivities in India. What appeals most to Hindus is the self-denying aspect of the Christian faith. Many Hindu Sadhu (wandering religious holy men) are very self-denying. Because of this the Sermon on Mount, the Beatitudes, and the councils of perfection have an appeal to the Hindu.
In Gandhi’s Autobiography Book, The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Gandhi refers to the Sermon on the Mount. He wrote, “Sermon on the Mount went straight to my heart. The verses, but whoever smites you on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat let him have thy cloke too, delighted me beyond pleasure.” Ghandi referred to the Sermon on the Mount as the greatest of all writings.
These words by Gandhi have been influential to a number of Hindus. Two very prominent High caste Hindus came to Christ when after reading Gandhi’s autobiography. Iin a very similar way booth of these Hindu men bought new testaments to read the Sermon on the Mount after reading the autobiography. Both of them came to Christ through reading the Sermon on the Mount
If we do not come with a spirit of criticism or superiority we will find that Hindus are very open to speak on the claims of Christ. We become most sympathetic in or witness when we have many and deep friendships with Hindu.
When you share Christ with a Hindu, commit the occasion to God in prayer; share in the power of the Holy Spirit in Love. God’s desire is for the Hindu to be restored to him through Christ. “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9
Now it’s time for you to share Christ with Hindus.