I am sharing the gospel of Christ and teaching the Word of God to my friends that are hindus. Although they have not accepted Christ yet, they respond positively to the Lord’s word. It is deepavali today, and I know they expect me to wish them a “happy deepavali”. My question is, is it wrong to wish them a “happy deepavali”? And is it considered comprising?
@Matthew fascinating question! And, sadly, probably a contentious one, because you’d likely get as many different answers to it as you would answerERs
For myself, I would probably not feel comfortable wishing them a “Happy Deepavali”, as I would take it as an endorsement of their faith. Still, there’s a ministry opportunity here, as Deepavali celebrates victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance.
In fact, this very description of Deepavali puts me in mind of an observation Ravi has often made regarding Paul – born a Jew, a citizen of Rome, and educated as a Greek. Given what Deepavali means, it might be a conversation starter to bring up the opening verses of 2 Corinthians 4, and particularly verse 6…
2 Corinthians 4:6 – For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Similar to what Jeremy @nashdude has suggested, I myself would be prone to offer my own greeting, but one resonating with the festival’s themes. We each have very different styles and personalities (and different levels of relationship). I have a new flatmate who is Hindu (but not very actively), however, our relationship is probably not developed enough for this. If we were closer and they expected my greeting for the holiday, I’d probably offer all or part of John 1:5 in my greeting:
“Hey! Have you been celebrating? The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
It might raise some questions—all the better:) Have you considered asking them about the festival? I wonder if that could open a fruitful exchange? If your friends have been interested in the scriptures, this could be an occasion to pray about sharing John 1:1-18. It has excellent points of contact with some of the motifs of the festival and sets the person of Christ in that frame.
What other points of connection have you found as you have been sharing God’s Word with these friends?
Thank you for this compelling question @Matthew! Whether or not to give well-wishes to our friends and aquaintances of different worldviews during their important religious holidays can be a challenge for us Christians.
I think something to consider here is whether our friends of different worldviews know where we stand with respect to our own faith in Jesus Christ. If we are living out our faith in an open and honest (and loving😊) way and if our friends and acquaintances know that we do not believe the underpinnings of their religions to be true, I think wishing our friends well on their religious holidays can be an amazing opportunity to open a conversation about their faith.
I am a bit conflicted as to whether I would use the actual holiday name in this instance given that the Hindu religion is pantheistic in nature and I would not want to give misinformation about my own faith or confuse them. On the other hand, I am not convinced that wishing another person well is ever a wrong thing to do.
In a lecture by the late Nabeel Qureshi, I believe he spoke about a similar issue, namely whether one should go to mosque or pray with fellow Muslims if one is a Christian. I wish I could locate this lecture, but unfortunately I have been unsuccessful. I think that the gist of what he said was that it would not be wrong to do this as an act of solidarity or as a means of showing love and respect for the people you care about. I have in mind the story of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army. When he confessed the God of Israel to be the only true God, he said:
18 But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.” 2 Kings 5:18
Elisha, in replying, “Go in peace” was in essence saying that this was alright because of Naaman’s heart posture.
Just a few thoughts. I hope that they have not muddied the waters. And if I have incorrectly interpreted/remembered Nabeel’s point, please forgive me.
@Matthew, That is so amazing that you are going through the Word of God with your Hindu friends! I know how difficult it is for Hindus to be open minded about something like that. You raise an interesting question…one that I encountered just yesterday in a phone conversation with extended family members! They wished me 'Happy Diwali ’ and the expectation was that I wished them back. As I was uncomfortable wishing something I didn’t believe in myself (a festival in honor of lord Rama) , I just thanked them for their wishes and continued the conversation with how they celebrated the festival. Another approach to take is to wish them good wishes for a new year as Diwali is considered as the beginning of a new year by many in India. As your friends know about your christian faith, I would assume they will be understanding. When Christmas comes, you may want to think twice though about wishing ‘Merry Christmas’ as it may mean nothing to them and could make them a bit uncomfortable. All my hindu family members wish me ‘Merry Christmas’ but they dont really expect me to wish them the same.