Most people—from all cultures and worldviews—try to be accepted by the world at large. They put on a façade of inclusiveness to make it look like they are like me and thee. I’ll tell you of two experiences I had twelve years ago in a much different culture …

Five days out ofKunming, my three friends and I arrived at Zhongdian, the home of Gedan-Songzanlin, the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple inSW China. We ascended the 146 steps to the main prayer hall, the route devout Buddhists take on their knees and foreheads every year. Prayer wheels lined the great hall. Each spin of a wheel supposedly sent a prayer—somewhere. Since most Buddhists don’t accept the supernatural, I wondered who they were praying to.

Monks ushered us into the central temple. After several rounds of yak butter tea, Nick Burt, who led our team and also spoke excellent Mandarin, asked them about their work at the temple. He said it must have been hard during Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution of 1966-67. Yes, it had been. Nick was a sympathetic man and I’m sure they sensed this.

Then he asked if they knew of Jesus. At once, they became very animated and took us over to their collection of “all the religious books.” Proudly, they pointed. There, on the shelf with scores of other tomes—a King James Bible. Unfortunately, it was coated with dust and had probably never been opened, much less read. The fact that they had included our religious book seemed to mean they accepted us as being religious people. Almost the same as they.

Not quite. We thanked them for their hospitality; after all, we were their guests for those short hours. But we knew we were an entire worldview apart from what they were.

Two days later, we arrived by bus in Deqin—20,000 Tibetans and 2,000 yaks. Nick led us to the Mei Li Alien Hotel, where he had stayed before. Like most other hotels on the Chinese frontier, the entire place reeked of urine. I never got used to that.

Time for dinner so Nick located a place not far from the hotel. He inspected their kitchen and ordered for us. Four Tibetans sat at the next table. One displayed a 15” dagger in his belt, a not uncommon sight among the minority people. Nick commented and showed them his Leatherman tool. They passed it around as if it were a precious jewel. I pulled out my Swiss Army knife; they really got excited when I demonstrated all 17 tools. We’d made friends.

Soon, Nick asked about their religion. No surprise, all were Buddhist. He asked if they knew about Jesus. Ah yes, Catholics have Jesus; we have Buddha. By their norms, they could carouse and drink with either religion. Nick smiled and shared the gospel with them. Uh, uh, Christianity is too hard; besides, it comes from the West.

He told them Jesus is the Son of God. They replied that they’ll be reincarnated into a better life. Nick suggested that they ask the reincarnated if they’ve escaped the troubles of this life. Our new friends dropped their eyes. Nick explained Christ’s sacrifice and forgiveness for sin. They shook their heads; no one is interested in talking about sin. Nick tried another tack and emphasized that Christianity is for here and now. They threw up their hands. No more talk about religion.

The meals were served. Perhaps the four Tibetans considered Nick’s words; we do not know. But they did not pretend to be like us.

Later, I thought how interesting: the religious ones, the monks, pretended we and they were somehow cut from the same bolt of cloth. They deftly sidestepped the issue of Jesus. On the other hand, the Tibetan peasants made it clear that they were not ready for Jesus. I hope they changed their minds. Certainly, those four working men were closer to being of our ken, our worldview, than that temple full of religious professionals. They were honest with us.

Next week, I’ll have a guest blogger. Stanley Baldwin is a friend and an accomplished writer, with four best-sellers of over a quarter-million copies each. You won’t want to miss his posting next Thursday.


About samuelehall

A follower of Jesus, husband, father of 3 adult children, writer and learner.
This entry was posted in Finding me ... and you and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Jerry says:

    Karen has some good thoughts. I also appreciate your comment, Sam, about not having “a lock on all truth.” It would be difficult to have such a lock without participating in somewhat one-sided theological discussions. On the other hand, it might be difficult to spread the good news, if there were not a certainty on what the good news is.

    In order for Karen’s thought to work, doesn’t it imply the ability to find God through more than one channel? Hence the line, there are many rivers flowing to the ocean. As I recall, Jesus stated that finding God is only through Him (Jesus). Would it be possible that Jesus and his thoughts may be beyond our complete understanding? For instance, what if a person found God and, therefore, found Jesus in so doing without knowing it? That would allow for a more inclusive thought pattern. As it is, Christianity generally supposes that anyone in the world who claims to have found God without having found Jesus has not found God at all. Isn’t that a bewildering thought? It may be true, but it is still bewildering.

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks, Jerry, this is the kind of give-and-take that makes a blog interesting … Yes, you cannot support any thought/idea unless you believe it has merit.
      And yes, according to Scripture (which I believe), Jesus stated more than just finding God is necessary (of course, that depends on what is meant by “finding” God?). What Jesus said was, “No man comes to the Father but through me.” The verse that many of us learned as children (John 3:16): “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” A definition seems necessary, to assure we’re talking about the same thing. I have found that Scripture interprets itself, so I will refer to specific passages.
      * finding God: I’ve already asked–what does this mean? Jerry, could you discuss what you meant?
      * believes in him: This certainly calls for more than intellectual assent, according to James 2:19: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” Wow, that cuts out the nonsense of mere words, doesn’t it?
      Scripture declares in John 1:12 (in the context of talking about Christ) that “as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in hi name.” So this kind of belief that John speaks of could be called faith. Hebrews 11 is a good place to learn what faith is all about.
      Jerry, you refer to a “more inclusive thought pattern” but then correctly answer the inferred question by stating that anyone who claims to have found God w/o having found Jesus has not found God at all. Matthew, chapters 5-7 records what we call “The Sermon on the Mount,” and chapter 7:13-14 removes the idea of inclusiveness thus: Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”
      So, yes, Christianity is narrow. Only through Jesus may one come to God.
      I suggest “The Reason for God,” by Timothy Keller for a clear enunciation of that position.

  2. Karen Orr says:

    I am a little cautious to comment as I no longer share quite the same perspective or world view, Though I still love and worship Jesus… I think God’s mercy and grace may extend beyond our limited scope, and there may be a genuine and powerful appreciation of the Divine mystery in the hearts of many who do not experience or define their spirituality as we do. In C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, the soldier in the 7th book, The Last Battle, entered into heaven because, in his heart, he was drawn to a God of mercy and goodness. He did not know His name was Aslan…

    • samuelehall says:

      Thanks for your honesty, Karen. I’d be interested in what you mean–that you don’t share the same perspective/worldview … There must be merit in your view, else you wouldn’t take that position. I certainly don’t think I have a lock on all truth and am open to examining insights of others.
      So, I’d like to hear more what you have to say.

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