Easter is a time to remember in a special way many truths about our Savior. We were reminded of who Jesus was and is as we spent Resurrection Sunday at our home church, drinking in the wonderful cantata and soul-stirring messages. Sometimes, however, we don’t realize how blessed we are until we see the plight of many unbelievers.
Less than 5,000 people live in the nearby town of Carrollton, VA, yet it is home to a Southeast Asian style Buddhist temple, or wat. Someone had told us it was there, and yesterday we decided to see if the rumor was true. Set on a tiny backroad in this rural community, Wat Prasantidhamma looks like it could have been lifted straight out of a Cambodian or Thai village. There, Buddhist monks are actively practicing their religion and teaching others. We removed our shoes and entered the wat to look around, where we met a friendly monk named Ikeshai. He is Thai, and was happy to tell us about the temple and various events held there. I began to ask him about his religion and his goals. Readily, he explained to us what he believes about dhamma, the cycle of life; the need for self-emptying and inner peace through meditation; and the inevitability of good and evil in our lives. As we pressed him about where he came from and where he is going, he repeatedly told us, “Don’t worry”. The only thing that matters, in his opinion, is the here and now. Although one cannot change fate, they must endeavor to have good thoughts, good speech, and good actions.
Ikeshai was aware of his sin, as he spoke about the bad thoughts and actions we all struggle with. I tried to explain to him the Creator God and the punishment that comes with sin. He believes that we must be emptied of self – which is true. Our souls, however, were not designed to be vacuums. We will be filled with something. Paul put it this way: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” Galatians 2:20. I told Ikeshai about Easter, and how our risen Savior gives us power over the sin within us and over death. Finally, I challenged him with the thought of eternity compared to the few years we may have on this earth. He did not react much as we shared the truths of the Bible with him, but we hope and pray that he will consider some of these things.
Although I have witnessed to Buddhists before, this was my first experience sharing the Gospel with an Asian Buddhist, and certainly with a Buddhist monk. It highlighted some of the challenges of preaching Christ in a culture with far different beliefs, but as I left I was struck anew by a few things about our Lord:
– God is Alive! Although Ikeshai spoke of the need to venerate the Buddha as a great teacher and enlightened one, he does not know a living God. We cannot take it for granted that God is alive and active in this world. The earth around us and the events in our lives are not just manifestations of dhamma, they are revelations of God’s power and grace! Because of our living Savior and His resurrection power, we too can live eternally. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen” Revelation 1:18
– God is Love! Again and again, this Buddhist monk stressed how our betterment rests upon our own efforts. If that is the case, we are powerless against the sin that is in our nature. Praise God, He loves us enough to offer forgiveness, victory, and new life. We are grateful just for the opportunity to serve such a God, not to earn merit or achieve His favor, but to show our love in return. He is the only one worthy of our devotion and service.
“Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian; lift up your voice and sing…He lives!”