Last Friday I was at the funeral of a beautiful baby girl named Hannah Cooley who went to be with the Lord. My friends, Cassidy and Dave, the grieving parents were, like all parents around the world who lose their babies, grieving. In the midst of the grief and the pain was a kind and compassionate pastor who, like many pastors around the country and around the world, preached a sermon of comfort probably like he had done many times before. The words were exactly what a Christian as myself would expect. They were words of comfort, empathy, and like we would expect, hope.
I confess that the word "hope" slips rather easily off my tongue. You would think that all over the world, when people suffer tragedies such as what my friends experienced that there would be people to comfort them and give them hope for the future.
Wrong!!!! If I were at a Buddhist funeral in the hill tribes of Thailand, I would be hearing a very different message. Although I have never actually been to a Buddhist funeral, I know enough of the Buddhist faith to know that when a loved one dies, it's sianara. Think "Anna and the King." The king could not grieve because that would trap his beautiful daughter's soul. The goal of Buddhism is not to enter into a joyful reunion with God and the family of God in heaven, but to free your soul of all earthly attachments and finally enter the ultimate state of nothingness-Nirvana. Not exactly chicken soup for the grieving mother's soul.
The situation is little better for a Hindu parent. In fact, from the perspective of millions of people in India, if your baby dies it is probably because either your household god is punishing you or it is because you have bad karma because of some atrocious sin in your past life. In other words-"If there's tragedy in your life, it's probably your fault."
A Muslim women would be asked to accept that it is the will of Allah for her baby to die. She would be comforted with the fact that if she is really good in this life, then she may get to go to heaven and see her child again. Maybe, that is. In Islam, it is absolutely impossible to have assurance of one's salvation. It's all up to the will of Allah.
A tribal African parent may have to hear that the reason for the baby's death is because a dead ancestor is offended.
And the list goes on..and on...and on...and on.
People ask me why do I do what I do. Why hop around the world and try to impose your beliefs on people who are already happy in their own beliefs?
The question stems from a false assumption, namely, that people are happy with their beliefs. The assumption may be standard in western academia, but take it from me, someone who has actually related to people around the world and not just read about them, nothing can be farther from the truth.
What motivates me to preach the gospel? Five words- There's hope in Jesus Christ.