This is a parable about sharing Christ with non Christians through holiday traditions. This is not a biblical parable, but it is similar to historical choices that the church has made regarding holiday traditions.
There were two men, each of whom wanted to share Christ with others. In this situation, they both wanted to reach Buddhists, but they had very different approaches.
The first man decided he would reach them with only the instructions laid out in the Bible. He knew it would be hard. He was dedicated to putting in the hard work to reach and serve them and to bring them only the truth of the God’s word from the Bible. He knew this may not bring the biggest crowds, but he wanted to ensure those who did respond to the message would genuinely be led toward Christ and a fruitful, Biblical relationship with Him. He understood that God must work in someone’s heart and draw them to Him if they are to truly follow Him. Man can not do it alone. He worked tirelessly and met much resistance. He taught them about the appointed times of God in Leviticus 23 and taught them how and when to celebrate what God had instructed rather than what man had made up. Many were very attached to the traditions and customs they grew up with. Many rejected the message of the Bible, but those that did come truly came to know Christ and His teachings. They had to make hard choices and walk away from many traditions that were dear to them. They had to change even things they enjoyed to put Christ first and live His way. For those who judged by counting the number of “converts” or the number of people attending services, this ministry was deemed not very successful. But God saw those who were truly reached for Him and smiled. People had been reached with the truth and come to Him on His terms with repentance, thanksgiving, love and submission in their hearts. Their lives were fully transformed.
The second man observed the limited results of the first man’s efforts. He saw how many of the Buddhists refused to give up their traditions and practices, even if they were willing to listen about Christ. He had a different idea. He was sure he could make it easier for people to come accept Christ if he let them keep many of their traditions and just relabeled them with Christian meaning. He observed the Buddhist traditions and holidays. He compromised purity of the gospel of Christ by blending Biblical teaching with Buddhist teaching. For one example, he embraced Buddha statues. He said they represent God’s provision and abundance rather than Buddha. He understood that God says in the Bible not to worship Him the way that the pagans worship their Gods, but he thought that was too extreme for today’s situation. He could make this a good thing and lead people to Christ by using the pagan traditions. He had many more people show up to his services and accept Christ. For those who counted success by counting the number of people, this ministry seemed much more successful. God, however, was sad. He saw now a group of people who had not repented of their sin. They had not walked away from the things that He said were bad. They had not chosen to put Him first in their lives. They simply added Christ’s name and some of His teaching on top of the traditions and beliefs they previously held. Now they had a blended teaching which kept the people farther from Him, all the while making them comfortable that they had accepted Christ, though they had not changed their lives fully. They gave Christ only part of their attention and obedience. He was not first. Rather family traditions and pagan worship traditions remained first in their hearts. They had “fit God in” around those other things.
Most Christians today would find the approach of the second man unacceptable. They clearly see that Buddhism is separate and can not be blended with Christianity to get a godly result that Christ would be pleased with. If I said I was going to put up Buddha statues instead of a Christmas tree, they would confront me on it as wrong. However, if we study the history of Christmas for such things as evergreen decorations, Christmas trees, holly, yule log, gift exchange, and even the choice of Dec 25 itself we would find that all of these things started as pagan celebrations and traditions as part of their worship. The only difference is that the church accepted blending with these things so long ago that most of us have grown up with them as emotionally charged family traditions. Most of us have grown up with them with Christian labels and symbolism painted on top of pagan practices. Rather than turn away from them to please God, many convince themselves that they can make good what God said was bad by attaching different meaning. However, usually when I use the example of a Buddha statue, these same people see it as clearly wrong, because they do not have the bias of having grown up with the traditions, celebrated in the name of Christ. The two are not actually different except in timing.
My sincere hope is that all who read this pray about it, study the history of Christmas, study God’s word for where He says not to learn the way of the pagans, not to worship Him the way they worship and reflect on whether they are ready to really put God first and hold nothing back from him, including precious and emotionally important traditions of man. Let nothing come before Him in importance. Hold nothing back. Yes it is hard, but you will grow ever closer to Him the more you put Him first in your life in all ways.
I recognize that this is an emotional subject for many and admitting that we should change is very hard. Even if we accept it and change our behavior, there will be much difficulty among family. This is to be expected when we stand for Christ above all others. Jesus said so himself in Matthew 10:23-39.
32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.
34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.
35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’[l]
37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.
Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.