When do we defend Jesus with people of other religions?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: I’ve been taught to respect people of other religions who do not share our faith. But if we are doing our jobs as Christians, we will be spending time with those very people. Recently I was in a group (just a gathering, not a Bible study) with a Muslim who said Jesus sinned. He said that in the Quran, God rebuked him for making himself equal with God. I was torn. I did not want to leave that falsehood hanging, but we had moved on. What should I have done?

Answer: I’m sorry. I’m not going to be a Monday morning quarterback here. What happened was between you and the Holy Spirit. We do have some guidelines, though… which I’ll be happy to review. 1 Peter 3:15 is my favorite.

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Peter 3:15).

Let’s think about this passage critically. The instruction is to always be ready. But we have to be ready in two ways: in our hearts and our minds. We must be willing to share… but we must also know the correct response.

As to your question though — and arguably most importantly — you should know how to deliver as much as the biblical answer that the Holy Spirit will allow. And as you’ve experienced, sometimes that will involve not sharing it at all. Sometimes the “moment” will have passed. Sometimes the issue will be too explosive… and the truth would do more harm than good in the long run.

But God knows the counterfactuals… how every future contingency would service (or harm) his kingdom in the long run. So, you will be better served by developing a more intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit than by spending too much time on algorithms about when you should and should not correct someone.

When we are with people who are outside of the Body of Christ, our objective should be to develop a relationship with them… not tell them what’s what. With a relationship in place, then you can tell them about what Jesus has done for you… and hopefully… what he can do for them.

When you were sitting in that mixed group with Muslims, if the Holy Spirit clearly told you to call them out on their error, then you should have done so. Jesus did this often… rebuking the religious establishment and driving moneychangers out of the temple. But mostly, Jesus was a tender teacher... developing a relationship with a Samaritan woman… ultimately sharing information about his messiahship that he was keeping secret from the Jews (John 4:1-42).

My point here is that although Jesus taught principles, he sought relationships... because a relationship with him was everything — it is the basis of salvation! Consider also the apostle Paul who indefatigably taught doctrine to the Gentiles — but never did so in the absence of a relationship. Paul loved the people in those local churches — and they knew it! … even when he was hard on them.

Let’s go back to your experience with the Muslims. I see no problem clarifying the Christian position if the time ever feels right. It is central to the atonement that Jesus never sinned… and that false assumption hangs way out there!

But I wasn’t there. The fact that you are concerned about this tells me that your heart is in the right place — which is key! So, if you hang in with God, he might tell you what to say in direct terms!

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12:11–12, NIV)

Now, be very cautious here. Our times are not like the times of the apostles. This is not the main way God does things today. However, it is still instructive. If you “show up” for God, he will “show up” for you. He has already shown up in the Bible… and he shows up immanently through the Holy Spirit.

God bless you! Keep fighting the good fight!


(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20211108 When and how do we defend Jesus when we are with people from other religions?).

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