In Defense of Siloam Mission
Should Christian organizations provide spiritual services for non-Christian religions?
By: Drew Eldridge Posted: 01/15/2021
Letter to the Editor
"Hi Drew! I'm wondering what your thoughts are on these attacks in the media against Siloam Mission. Should Christian Organizations be providing spiritual services for non-Christian religions? Thank you!"
Thanks for taking the time to write in, John. This is a great question! Christians are well-known around the world for their charity, hospitality and accommodation of other religions. But when is accommodation taken too far? It's one thing for Christians to provide food, shelter and clothing for people, or even Christian spiritual services. But should Christians be providing spiritual services that go against their religion? I think the answer is "no." Just take a look at what the Bible says:
"To you it was shown that you might know the Lord is God; there is no other beside him."
-Deuteronomy 4:35 (ESV)
"You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or in the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them."
-Exodus 20:3-6 (ESV)
"For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth -as indeed there all many "gods" and many "lords" -yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."
-1 Corinthians 8:5-6 (ESV)
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
-John 14:16 (ESV)
There are plenty more passages, but as you can see the Bible unequivocally teaches that Christians are to practice and encourage Christianity alone. We are to think, act and speak in a manner that conveys our conviction that Jesus Christ is the risen Son of God. We are to come into relationship with Him. Our religion is to be regarded by us as true, and others are to be regarded as either false or incomplete. We are to hold firm in all of this, and although we're not to be proud, we are called to be unashamed. We're also commanded by Jesus to try our best to bring others into relationship with Him.
"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation."
-Mark 16:15 (ESV)
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And, behold I am with you always, to the end of the age."
Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)
"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him..."
Luke 9:26-27 (NASB)
This all applies to how we live our personal lives, but it also applies to how we do business or conduct ministry. This means that a charity like Siloam would be completely in the right for either not providing or disallowing non-Christian spiritual services that they feel contradict their beliefs. This would be the honest thing to do, and it would be the Christian thing to do.
But what about this accusation against Siloam of "failing" adherents of these traditional indigenous religions? Is it really Christians who have failed them? Is it really Christians who should be feeling all of this guilt and shame that's coming from the media? To answer this let's consider a reverse scenario.
Suppose a group of disadvantaged Christians went into a Muslim or Indigenous charity and came out complaining that they weren't given Christian spiritual care. Which spiritual community in the area do you think has failed these Christians spiritually? Indigenous, Muslim or Christian? Moreover, what might it say about the quality of spiritual care Christians get from their own spiritual places if, in order to meet their unique Christian spiritual needs, they are actually going to the non-Christian ones?
With regard to the Siloam question, I believe it isn't the Christian ministries and leaders who have failed these indigenous people spiritually. If anyone has failed, it's the ministries and leaders of these indigenous religions. It's them who should be held responsible.
So how should Christians respond to such accusations? When people seek spiritual care from us, we can either provide them with our own Christian care, or kindly direct them elsewhere for other religious care. But what about those of other religions who have been neglected by their own spiritual communities, who come to us in a state of emotional and spiritual frustration? What are we to do with them? How should we treat them? I think the answer is love. The same kind of love that the Apostle Paul speaks of:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
-1 Corinthians 13-14 (NIV)
We should also respond with empathy. In His ministry on earth, Jesus Christ always emphasized empathy and treating others as we would like to be treated. Imagine if you were a Christian in need of spiritual care, and imagine the churches or charities around you were so spiritually neglectful that you felt like you had go to a Muslim mosque or charity to worship Jesus. Imagine the Muslims lovingly serving you in every other way, but declining to provide you with spiritual services that would go against their own beliefs. How would that feel? How would you like them to treat you in that awkward situation, especially if you were feeling spiritually frustrated and maybe even a little angry? Probably, with a great deal of patience and understanding, and hopefully some help or direction. And I think The Bible is clear that we Christians should do the same.
In other words, we Christians should hold true to our principles and not compromise on them, yet always respond with grace and love. To the best of our ability, we should try and meet adherents of these indigenous religions halfway, spiritually. We should be kind and understanding. We should be humble, as well. We should engage in civil discussions with these other religious communities and be diplomatic. Above all else, perhaps, we should make sure that every non-Christian person we come into contact with feels loved by us. But the two things we should never do is compromise on our Christian beliefs, and presume spiritual responsibility for people of other faiths. It's our job to be ambassadors of Christ in our day to day lives, and to bring people nearer to Christ in love.
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