Anyone who has shared the Gospel with a follower of Hinduism likely will be familiar with a common refrain something like this: "Yes, what you are sharing is very much like what I believe. I also believe in Jesus. You see, all religions are different paths to the same God."
Our reaction might be to promptly set about showing how it's just not true. We display our Western logic to prove that the gods are not the same and that Christ is supreme.
Indians love to argue religion, and the Hindu worldview imparts to its children a suspicion of exclusivity and a way of reasoning that inverts our normal rules of logic. The upside is that Hindus have a built-in spiritual tuning fork that resonates easily with any talk of the divine.
It's much easier to broach the subject of religion with a Hindu than a secular Westerner. The question, then, is how to turn those conversations to a good dialogue, not an exasperating and pointless conversation.
As a fellow traveler among Hindus, a few basic principles for fruitful interaction can be helpful.
The power of prayer
For all their philosophical pretensions, Hindus are religious pragmatists at heart. They patronize certain gods because they, or someone they know, can attest to some benefit they've received from them. Now, obviously, we don't embrace such motives in prayer. We do, however, have a heavenly Father who loves to give good gifts to His children.
So be open with your Hindu friends about the power of prayer in Jesus' name and about the God who hears and answers prayer. Ask early on how you can pray for them, and then let them hear you praying for them—for their requests, for their salvation, for spiritual blessing. Most importantly, persist in prayer for them and expect God to answer. Talk with them about the things you are praying for and affirm the power of Christ as He answers.
The plain Bible
When talking with a Hindu friend, open your Bible. Hindus are drawn to religious Scriptures. Hinduism is full of myths about reality and the nature of God. Instead of confronting these through debate, let God's Word do the arguing for you. The more they read or hear, the more opportunity there is for the Spirit to imprint the truth on their hearts.
There are a few key topics that Hinduism is particularly fuzzy on. Here are some passages that can shed light where it's needed: the story of creation (Genesis 1–2); the fall of humankind (Genesis 3); God's law (Exodus 20:1-21); true uncleanness (Mark 7:14-23).
Do all you can to get them hearing or reading the Word for themselves. Bring up the Bible as you talk with them. Ask questions about what they've read, listen to their responses and direct them back to the Word.
The person of Christ
Hindus who have heard of Jesus often hold Him in high esteem as a religious teacher. To turn that fascination to true worship, be clear about who Christ is and what He has done. As you open the Bible with your Hindu friends, let them see Christ's power over sin, Satan and death. The powerful person of Christ speaks for Himself among our Hindu friends as you point to the basic truths of the Gospel.
Here is a road map to walk a Hindu friend along that Gospel path: the healing of the lame man (Mark 2:1-12); Jesus defeats Satan (Luke 4:1-13); Jesus' death (Mark 15); His resurrection (Matthew 28).
A proper response
For Hindus, the afterlife is a world of second chances. Their belief in reincarnation tends to insulate them from any sense of urgency regarding their eternity. Therefore, as we present the Gospel, we need to bring its implications—depravity, judgment, lostness—to bear on the person we are talking to.
Ask probing questions to help them place themselves in the midst of the biblical world they've been learning about: "Do you think your sin separates you from God (Romans 3:23)? Do you think your spirit could be 'dead' because of sin (Ephesians 2:1)? What makes someone clean before God? Are you?"
Building on the foundation laid through the Gospel truths, we can guide our Hindu friends to the proper response: to repent and believe. A few passages that may help to bring that point home: the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31); the Pharisee and the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50); Peter's hearers repent (Acts 2:37-41); count the cost of belief in Jesus (Matthew 10:26-39); salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Every day, thousands of Hindus cross from life to eternal death, the vast majority having never heard of the Savior of the world. For us, the question remains: Who will take this good news to them?
J. Brennan has worked as a church planter and church-planting trainer in South Asia since 2005. This article is adapted from its posting at IMB.org. For information about engaging with Hindus during their five-day Diwali festival of lights, which begins Oct. 30 and is described as "the biggest, brightest and most elaborate of all Hindu festivals in India," click here.