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The late Walter Martin was a Christian apologist who specialized in ministry to people involved in alternative religions. I once heard him recount a conversation he'd had with a woman who assured him she had found the secret to dealing effectively with Jehovah's Witnesses. Martin asked her to explain.

"Well," she enthused, "when I see them coming, I shut the blinds and lock my door, and when they knock, I pretend I'm not home!"

Unfortunately, when it comes to relationships with Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists, the church's instinct has often mirrored hers: If we pretend they don't exist, they'll just go away!

This massive planet has become a global village, and we keep bumping into adherents of other faiths—not just when we travel overseas but at the grocery store, the library, and the gym. We can no longer live as though other religions don't exist.

Many Christians hesitate to initiate conversations with Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus because they secretly fear they will become one of the loosey-goosey Christians who, after interfaith encounters, starts waxing eloquent about how all religions are one.

My experience has had the opposite effect. After speaking with Muslims, I come away with a deeper appreciation for how good the Good News of Jesus Christ is. In one recent interfaith meeting, for example, we discussed forgiveness. My Muslim friend said that forgiving from a position of weakness—a woman forgiving an abusing husband, a person of color forgiving a racist official—is cowardice. Only when you have won your freedom or are in a position of strength can you forgive, he argued.

Naturally, with our model being Jesus—who forgave when he was the most vulnerable and weak, while he hung on the ...

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April 2011

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