Should Christians Participate In Non-Christian Religious Rituals?

Posting Date
    15-Sep-2017
 
Author
    Rajkumar Richard
 
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About Rajkumar Richard

Rajkumar Richard spent his growing up years between India and Bahrain. He was addicted to drugs, smoking and drinking, but by the sheer grace of God he gave up those addictions between 1991 and 2000. He embraced Christ as his personal Savior and decided to pursue the Lord seriously. He completed a post-graduate degree in Biology at the Madurai Kamaraj University (1990) and also earned a second post-graduate degree in Religion at the Southern Evangelical Seminary, USA (2012). His fervent passion is to strengthen the faith of Christians, especially young Christians, by challenging their thought paradigm in themes that concern them. He is blessed with two lovely children: John and Joanna. More information can be found on his blog https://rajkumarrichard.blogspot.in.

Christians actively participating in non-Christian religious rituals is a common sight. Even the Pope prayed in a mosque, “In a gesture designed to highlight his commitment to inter-faith dialogue, Pope Francis conducted a silent prayer alongside a senior Islamic cleric in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque on Saturday. Facing Mecca, Francis bowed his head in prayer for several minutes while standing next to Istanbul’s Grand Mufti Rahmi Yaran.”1

There was a time when I neither read nor studied the Bible. Hence, my love for the Triune God was very cold and immature. At that point in time, I [passively] participated in non-Christian religious rituals (acts of worship, such as Hindu pooja & eating prasada - religious offering, usually consumed by worshipers after pooja). Some of my Christian friends had even undertaken pilgrimages to sacred non-Christian religious sites.

However, when my knowledge and my love for the Triune God and HIS Word increased, I concluded that Christians should not participate in non-Christian religious rituals. Here’s why:

The Bible Says So

There is only one God, HE is the Triune God (Isaiah 43:10, 45:5; Psalm 18:31). There are no other gods than the Triune God.

Actively participating in non-Christian religious rituals is synonymous to worshipping that nonexistent god, which is an active rejection of the Triune God. Praying to that god or diligently and devotionally reading their sacred texts or undertaking pilgrimages are some instances of actively participating in non-Christian religious rituals.

The living God has firmly emphasized that there should be no other gods in our life (Exodus 20: 3-6, 34:17; Deuteronomy 6: 14 etc.). In fact, God commands us to “not even mention the names of other gods—do not let them be heard on your lips.” (Exodus 23: 13, NET). The Bible also categorically states that the Lord Jesus Christ is THE only way to heaven (John 10:9; Acts 4:11-12).

When Christians actively participate in non-Christian religious rituals, they invoke the wrath of the only living God (Cf. Exodus 34:14; Jeremiah 25:6). Hence, an active participation in the non-Christian religious ritual is to be avoided.

But some Christians who actively participate in non-Christians religious rituals cite this passage from the Bible to claim that they have the necessary freedom.

With regard then to eating food sacrificed to idols, we know that “an idol in this world is nothing,” and that “there is no God but one.” If after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we live, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live. But this knowledge is not shared by all. And some, by being accustomed to idols in former times, eat this food as an idol sacrifice, and their conscience, because it is weak, is defiled. Now food will not bring us close to God. We are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do. But be careful that this liberty of yours does not become a hindrance to the weak. For if someone weak sees you who possess knowledge dining in an idol’s temple, will not his conscience be “strengthened” to eat food offered to idols? So by your knowledge the weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed. If you sin against your brothers or sisters in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. For this reason, if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I may not cause one of them to sin. (1 Corinthians 8, NET).

This passage, if studied in its original context, refers to some believers who felt there was nothing wrong with eating this meat that following the sacrifice, was sold in shops near the temple. These believers, who ate this meat, knew that the gods to whom this meat was sacrificed were nonexistent. However, these believers are called to relinquish their personal liberty for the good of their fellow believers with weaker consciences.

But those Christians who actively participate in non-Christian religious rituals based on this passage should read the following passage, which firmly asserts that believers should not attend temples where sacrifices to other gods were made, since that would mean being in spiritual fellowship with demons.

Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Consider the people of Israel: Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy? Are we stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10: 14-22, NIV).

Reasons Behind Participating In Non-Christian Religious Rituals

Let us consider two reasons mentioned by Christians participating in non-Christian religious rituals.

Political correctness is one reason why Christians actively participate in non-Christian religious rituals. Many Christian politicians actively participate in the sacred rituals of the non-Christians.

This is votebank politics. The Christian politician believes that in order to secure the votes of non-Christians, he/she should participate in the sacred rituals of non-Christians. Christian celebrities too commit the same fallacy of participating in the sacred rituals of non-Christians in order to gain greater fandom. Other Christians who idolize these politicians and celebrities follow their idols in worshiping other gods.

The problem with being politically correct is that by doing so, we run the risk of invoking the wrath of the living God. Politicians and celebrities should realize that it is God who blesses them to be a politician or a celebrity. Hence their allegiance and devotion should be to God and not man.

A notion that we would offend our non-Christian friend is another common reason that motivates a Christian to participate in the sacred rituals of non-Christians. Christians, in the workplace, often seek to gain favor from their authorities or clients. Hence they would participate in the sacred rituals of their non-Christian friends, so not to offend them.

In this instance, Christians ought to recognize that God is the one who blesses the work of their hands. It is God who enables people to favor us. Once again, our sole allegiance is to our God and HIM alone.

Christians, who are totally committed to evangelism, invite their non-Christian friends to the worship services of their church. Hence, in order to return the favor, they, occasionally, visit the sacred places, and in some instances, also participate in the non-Christian religious rituals, so not to offend their non-Christian friend.

Christians, who are committed to evangelism, should realize that their non-Christian friend visits the church in order to seek and find the truth of the living God. But, if the non-Christian friend demands that the Christian worship the other god, then it is probably the non-Christian friend who is evangelizing the Christian, not the other way around.

Since there are no justifiable reasons for Christians to participate in the religious rituals of non-Christians, let us not sin against God by worshiping other gods, even though these gods are non-existent.

Endnotes:
1https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/29/pope-francis-turkey-pray-blue-mosque-islam-cooperation, last accessed on 7th September, 2017.