My son came home a couple days ago so excited,“Daddy! Daddy! I was picked to paint the shovel at school!”

To be honest, I had no idea what he meant, and the harder I tried to understand him, the more confused I got. I couldn’t understand why painting a shovel was important, or why only one in his class was chosen. Finally, I got my answers.

I help in his classroom every day for reading excercises, and the teacher explained that every grade had one student selected to paint the “shovel”, and she pointed out the window. That’s when I saw the blade of an Altoona city snowplow.  The city is allowing the students to paint the face of the plow so that when they see the snow getting plowed, they’ll have a connection to helping the city! It suddenly made sense.

Having the proper understanding of the situation made me understand why he was so excited. It also helped me to realize why it was such a big deal. Just hearing different words and seeing a visual totally changed my perspective.  It got me thinking about how we don’t understand people of other denominations or even different faiths sometimes. Often we are doing the exact same thing, but using different words or ceremonies, and yet we use those things to cause division.  So often we look for how “they” are different from “us” but how often do we look for what makes us similar?

I think it’s time for us to start considering that just because we don’t understand something doesn’t make it wrong. Why not take the time to learn and understand what’s going on behind the words. Let’s not assume we know the what and why,
instead let’s try and understand the story behind the words.

Take a look at Acts 17 with Paul preaching on Mars Hill, using a pagan culture’s ideas, statues, and poems to reveal Christ. Maybe if we looked for what makes us similar, we would have a basis for relationship in which we could exchange ideas and help them see God in their world. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
. .

21 comments
  1. That is a great class project. Bryan could you flesh out a little what you mean by:

    “It got me thinking about how we don’t understand people of other denominations or even different faiths sometimes. Often we are doing the exact same thing, but using different words or ceremonies, and yet we use those things to cause division.”

    Different denominations I understand, but “different faiths” makes me a little nervous.

  2. That is a great class project. Bryan could you flesh out a little what you mean by:

    “It got me thinking about how we don’t understand people of other denominations or even different faiths sometimes. Often we are doing the exact same thing, but using different words or ceremonies, and yet we use those things to cause division.”

    Different denominations I understand, but “different faiths” makes me a little nervous.

  3. Thanks Bryan. I think you have something there. Too often, perhaps most of the time, some Christians judge those of other faiths as well as other denominations. It is so easy to look at someone who is an “other” and put them in a box where we make assumptions about who they are, what they do, and on what they believe. If Jesus didn’t do that…Saducees, Pharisees, Samaritans, Greeks, Romans…He approached them just the way they were and spoke to them in a language that perhaps they could understand.
    Good point!

  4. Thanks Bryan. I think you have something there. Too often, perhaps most of the time, some Christians judge those of other faiths as well as other denominations. It is so easy to look at someone who is an “other” and put them in a box where we make assumptions about who they are, what they do, and on what they believe. If Jesus didn’t do that…Saducees, Pharisees, Samaritans, Greeks, Romans…He approached them just the way they were and spoke to them in a language that perhaps they could understand.
    Good point!

  5. Nervous how, Shane?…are you concernedd that knowledge of other faith and the beliefs of people in those faiths is itself dangerous?

    While people of other faiths are on the wrong path spiritually, I would think understanding them is critical.

    Isn’t it ignorance of other peopel that allows us to marginalize or diminish them?

  6. Nervous how, Shane?…are you concernedd that knowledge of other faith and the beliefs of people in those faiths is itself dangerous?

    While people of other faiths are on the wrong path spiritually, I would think understanding them is critical.

    Isn’t it ignorance of other peopel that allows us to marginalize or diminish them?

  7. @Deacon – I understand your point and agree with it. I’ve just been reading some stuff on the emerging church regarding a new missional movement that gives people Jesus and they don’t have to leave their religion. You can be Muslim, just add Jesus.

    I know that isn’t where Bryan stands. I just wanted him to flesh it out more since some people might interpret it that way.

    I’m probably going to blog on it this weekend or next week.

  8. @Deacon – I understand your point and agree with it. I’ve just been reading some stuff on the emerging church regarding a new missional movement that gives people Jesus and they don’t have to leave their religion. You can be Muslim, just add Jesus.

    I know that isn’t where Bryan stands. I just wanted him to flesh it out more since some people might interpret it that way.

    I’m probably going to blog on it this weekend or next week.

  9. So here’s a little more on what I was talking about. I think so often we are more concerned with differences and we forget to think and talk about what draws us together. In my opinion, all religion is the human pursuit of God. Because I believe that God answers when humans are pursuing Him, I believe that He has been talking to most every religion there is. You can see His character and heart woven into so many different faiths. The flip side is that it is a HUMAN pursuit, and so we mess it up. People living in one area of the world heard from God, but also added their own thoughts and we got Buddhism. In another part of the world they were seeking God, but added some human thoughts and we got Islam.
    Don’t get me wrong, but we Christians have gotten quite a bit wrong ourselves (anyone remember the Crusades or killing people for saying the world wasn’t the center of the universe?). Before you start calling me a heretic, I do believe that Jesus is the only way to right relationship with God. I just think sometimes we need to look at our methods and ask if they are what Jesus would have wanted. I think we need to help people see where Jesus is already in their lives and then help build on that.
    As a final thought, read Acts 17 when Paul is on Mars Hill and uses very pagan statues and poems to talk about how he appreciates their spirituality. He starts where they are at, builds on where he sees God working in their lives, and then opens their eyes to a new aspect of who God is. That kinda sounds like what we should all be doing, doesn’t it?

  10. So here’s a little more on what I was talking about. I think so often we are more concerned with differences and we forget to think and talk about what draws us together. In my opinion, all religion is the human pursuit of God. Because I believe that God answers when humans are pursuing Him, I believe that He has been talking to most every religion there is. You can see His character and heart woven into so many different faiths. The flip side is that it is a HUMAN pursuit, and so we mess it up. People living in one area of the world heard from God, but also added their own thoughts and we got Buddhism. In another part of the world they were seeking God, but added some human thoughts and we got Islam.
    Don’t get me wrong, but we Christians have gotten quite a bit wrong ourselves (anyone remember the Crusades or killing people for saying the world wasn’t the center of the universe?). Before you start calling me a heretic, I do believe that Jesus is the only way to right relationship with God. I just think sometimes we need to look at our methods and ask if they are what Jesus would have wanted. I think we need to help people see where Jesus is already in their lives and then help build on that.
    As a final thought, read Acts 17 when Paul is on Mars Hill and uses very pagan statues and poems to talk about how he appreciates their spirituality. He starts where they are at, builds on where he sees God working in their lives, and then opens their eyes to a new aspect of who God is. That kinda sounds like what we should all be doing, doesn’t it?

  11. So, I hope everyone reading this also reads Shane’s post, and all the comments on that, it really helps feed the conversation! As for me personally, I had a response, but I think it was mostly hit on by the comments to that post. For me, I think we need to be extremely aware and respectful of a person’s cultural background as compared to their spiritual practices. To be direct, if a Buddhist or Muslim comes to know Christ, we don’t have to force them to conform to our systems of worship so that they look, act, and talk like we do. Actually, we don’t have to change them at all. . .that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. I think too often we want signs of their conversion but we only look for signs that fit our way of thinking. Jesus did not save my soul so that I could go to a church building, sing a couple songs, have announcements, sing a couple songs, listen to a message, give an offering, sing a song and then leave. Boy, that sounds like a lot of our churches, though. I’m finding more and more beautiful ways to worship God as I seek Him outside the walls of the traditional church. To be honest, sometimes I am confronted with things that make me uncomfortable, but then I pray and ask if I’m uncomfortable because of my background or because it’s not what God wants. Often, He is stretching me to see a new facet of His personality. I went off on a tangent there, but I do believe that if a person accepts Jesus as their savior then you will see changes. Those changes will take place over time, and may not be seen immediately. They may also not fit our “box” of what changes should look like. I don’t know if I can directly say what should happen or not, that’s for God to do. I just know that it’s my job to encourage my new brother or sister in their growth, and love them as Christ would. Beyond that, I trust God to do His part! 🙂

  12. So, I hope everyone reading this also reads Shane’s post, and all the comments on that, it really helps feed the conversation! As for me personally, I had a response, but I think it was mostly hit on by the comments to that post. For me, I think we need to be extremely aware and respectful of a person’s cultural background as compared to their spiritual practices. To be direct, if a Buddhist or Muslim comes to know Christ, we don’t have to force them to conform to our systems of worship so that they look, act, and talk like we do. Actually, we don’t have to change them at all. . .that’s the Holy Spirit’s job. I think too often we want signs of their conversion but we only look for signs that fit our way of thinking. Jesus did not save my soul so that I could go to a church building, sing a couple songs, have announcements, sing a couple songs, listen to a message, give an offering, sing a song and then leave. Boy, that sounds like a lot of our churches, though. I’m finding more and more beautiful ways to worship God as I seek Him outside the walls of the traditional church. To be honest, sometimes I am confronted with things that make me uncomfortable, but then I pray and ask if I’m uncomfortable because of my background or because it’s not what God wants. Often, He is stretching me to see a new facet of His personality. I went off on a tangent there, but I do believe that if a person accepts Jesus as their savior then you will see changes. Those changes will take place over time, and may not be seen immediately. They may also not fit our “box” of what changes should look like. I don’t know if I can directly say what should happen or not, that’s for God to do. I just know that it’s my job to encourage my new brother or sister in their growth, and love them as Christ would. Beyond that, I trust God to do His part! 🙂

  13. Hey Bryan – here’s my comment on the “Messianic Muslims” post – http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?p=1700#comment-2816

    I wholeheartedly agree that changes do not happen overnight. I also agree that the expression of the Church will look different, and should look different in differing cultures.

    My concern is that in our desire to be culturally relevant we don’t end up teaching someone of another faith that they can have Jesus and still hold on to their false religion. God is a jealous God and he wants our whole hearts.

  14. Hey Bryan – here’s my comment on the “Messianic Muslims” post – http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?p=1700#comment-2816

    I wholeheartedly agree that changes do not happen overnight. I also agree that the expression of the Church will look different, and should look different in differing cultures.

    My concern is that in our desire to be culturally relevant we don’t end up teaching someone of another faith that they can have Jesus and still hold on to their false religion. God is a jealous God and he wants our whole hearts.

  15. Okay, so here’s an interesting question. What is “false” religion. . .or is all religion false? I know I’m playing with words, but I also think there’s reality to the question. One of the groomsmen in my wedding now lives as a missionary in Thailand (hugely Buddhist) and the very simple version is that Buddhists have no problem with a person using the path of Christianity to find enlightenment. They just think there are other paths that could get you there as well. So, could a Buddhist be a Christian, and can a Christian be a Buddhist?
    The obvious problem is that we believe Jesus is the only way to God, which I believe also. So, Buddhists only problem with my friend is that he is “exclusive”. Still, I wonder if or how a person could seek Jesus with their whole heart and yet look totally different from how we do that? Trust me, I don’t have the answer, I just love pushing back and exploring the issue. By the way, I absolutely LOVE this discussion that’s going on.

  16. Okay, so here’s an interesting question. What is “false” religion. . .or is all religion false? I know I’m playing with words, but I also think there’s reality to the question. One of the groomsmen in my wedding now lives as a missionary in Thailand (hugely Buddhist) and the very simple version is that Buddhists have no problem with a person using the path of Christianity to find enlightenment. They just think there are other paths that could get you there as well. So, could a Buddhist be a Christian, and can a Christian be a Buddhist?
    The obvious problem is that we believe Jesus is the only way to God, which I believe also. So, Buddhists only problem with my friend is that he is “exclusive”. Still, I wonder if or how a person could seek Jesus with their whole heart and yet look totally different from how we do that? Trust me, I don’t have the answer, I just love pushing back and exploring the issue. By the way, I absolutely LOVE this discussion that’s going on.

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