The passengers crouched in deathly terror as the plane tossed violently in mid-air. Some screamed helplessly, some wailed hopelessly, many prayed silently. Then the flight stewardesses started handing out blank sheets of paper and told the passengers to write notes to their loved ones. Farewell notes! Whatever hope the passengers had up to then vanished.
But miraculously, the pilot managed to steer the plane through the storm to safety. When the plane finally grounded to a halt, one passenger told the person sitting beside her, “Thank Jesus. He answered my prayer.” The other person retorted, “No. Thank Buddha. He answered our prayers.”
Gone are the days when miracles and material blessings were the domain of Christianity. Today, devotees of other faiths are increasingly experiencing signs and wonders. Miraculous healing of terminal illnesses, visions of their gods, increased material prosperity, excellent examination results – these and many other ‘answered prayers’ have led them to deeper conviction of their faiths and greater allegiance to their gods.
This increased religious fervour in other faiths – evidenced in vigorous missionary activities – has made Christian evangelism more difficult.
Globally, Islam is on the rise with reports of increasing conversion rate in the West while Christianity is waning there. Closer to home, Buddhism, in keeping with the times, has become more contemporary in its worship with tambourine dancers, upbeat music and songs. And like the Church, temples today also conduct weekly Sunday School classes.
Gone also are the days when the world associated charitable acts with Christians – when hospitals, schools for the underprivileged, shelters for children, women and any needy ones, were the labour of the Church. Today, devotees of other faiths are ministering in like passion to the poor in society.
How can our Christian witness stand out against this scenario? How can we share the gospel effectively in the midst of the growing religious fervour in other faiths? How can we share the gospel amidst the influence of permissive western culture and globalisation, which has brought unhealthy modern culture and new religion? How can we counter post modernism in our pluralistic society, which has created even more serious problems: loss of faith; the disappearance of God from the modern worldview, which has made us vulnerable to the incorporation of a domesticated Jesus into other religious worldviews.
Firstly, we must rediscover the meaning of truth, and this we can find in the Bible. Without a solid conviction of what and Whom we believe, we will become victims of a philosophy of pluralism, which assumes there are no absolute truths.
While we enjoy a level of freedom in the verbal proclamation of the gospel, our claims to absolute truth are often viewed with suspicion. The modern assumption, largely unquestioned, is that beliefs are mainly a matter of preference, that there is no ultimate reality, and therefore all absolute statements about our faith are regarded as arrogant. But as someone put it, “It is better to stand alone on the side of truth than to stand with the majority on the side of half-truths and lies”.
Secondly, as a Church, we need to involve ourselves in society, not as a ‘powerful’ institution seeking to pressure others, but rather as a community of believing Christians seeking to bring biblical truths to our fellow members of society. In our daily dealings with people around us, we must demonstrate the distinctiveness of Christianity in our lives.
Christians in the marketplace therefore have a high calling. Their testimony of standing up for their faith is the most powerful because it is lived out where it is often the most difficult.
Unfortunately, many do not rise up to the challenge. Some simply make no attempt to be different. Others make excuses for their compromises, sometimes even twisting Scripture. Still others adopt the ‘triumphalistic’ stand that if they would obey the Lord, deliverance (their definition) would surely follow. While this has often happened, the approach remains inadequate. Not only does it leave many disappointed, its promises are ultimately no different from the health-and-wealth promises of other religions.
Daniel’s three friends expressed the BERITA NECF 3 biblical attitude when they were confronted with the fiery furnace. To King Nebuchadnezzar’s threat to throw them into the fiery furnace should they refuse to bow to the golden image, they stoutly said: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it… But even if he does not… we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 13: 17-18)
Our willingness to suffer loss in this life is the only sure witness of the reality of our hope beyond this life.
Unconditional obedience to God’s Word in the marketplace will yield the respect and trust of our peers. As we walk the path of obedience, we will be God’s agent of redemption and reconciliation of non-believers through Jesus Christ.