Studying the Faiths of Others to Strengthen Your Own
How surprising would it be if I said that being open to every thought and every concept out there could actually help you solidify a belief that you already have? Well, if you went on the Core 101/301 trip this weekend, you would have experienced this firsthand. The journey consisted of visiting eight or so places of worship in St. Louis, and seeing what the leaders or members of each congregation had to say about their particular set of practices or beliefs. Ultimately the purpose of visiting each site was not that the students would be swayed one way or another, but so that they would be encouraged to look inside themselves and see what they believe and why they believe it.
A prime example of strengthening one’s faith by examining others appears in Romans 14:5. “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each should be fully convinced in his own mind.” While one view may be closer to the truth, that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be learned from the other view. Therefore, it is important to hear out both sides of a story, however ridiculous it may seem, because ultimately one has just as much say as another in what they believe in the end.
In 1 Peter 3:15, we are likewise commanded to be more active and accountable in our own faith by first seeking out the faiths of others. The text says: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” The only way one can be prepared to give such an answer is to know the inquirer’s defenses as well as one’s own. The second part of the verse concerns not just devotion to faith but the way in which an individual produces that devotion. It says, “But do this with gentleness and respect.” This weekend on the Core 101/301 trip students of Greenville College heard all sorts of testimonies of faith, some of which were given in a gentle and respectful spirit and others which were not. As a result, many were encouraged to reevaluate the way in which they lived out their own convictions and how they witnessed to others when they felt led to.
When studying the way others worship, one should not only compare and contrast lifestyles but the also morals and values that originated within that specific set of beliefs. Though there are many differences to be found, the similarities between faiths are often more shocking than anything. The question that arises from this then is that if both beliefs are the same in their basic core values, why worry about how one place of worship acts as opposed to another?
The answer lies in the very fact that both forms of thought come together at a common road. Since they are often connected, learning about one form of worship can help to educate about another. This does not mean one has to apply the principles of either faith to their own life; it just ensures that by being open and receptive individuals will not overlook any aspects in the beliefs of others or in the convictions of oneself.
So if you are serious about your faith and want to grow in it, you are encouraged to not hold back and to delve deep into the beliefs of others around you. As the Core 101 and 301 class learned, “A Christian’s theology is personal, but it should never be private.” Do not be afraid to get out there and interact with others of different religious perspectives. Remember that God speaks through a lot of things, even through objects and ideas outside of the Christian realm. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 commands, “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” If you lend your ears to listen and your heart to receive, no matter what may befall you, you are sure to not be disappointed.