This discussion may focuses on the impact of Christian religion for the gospel of Jesus in Indian sub-continent especially among Muslims since hundreds of years. This may go through some questions, such as why people deny to accept the gospel and Word of God that he has designed for all nations. It reviews the trend of local Christian tradition and seeks to contextualize biblical practices. The priority of this discussion is people of every religion may encounter God’s love in their own context rather than encountering His love as a religion of Christianity.
The biggest identity of the people of the world is their own religion and atheists do not have any religious identity. According to Wikipedia, about four thousand two hundred (4,200) religions are present in the world. Statistics of Bangladesh find that Muslims (88- 90%), Hindu (10-12%), Christians and others 0.5%. The main scriptures are the Qur'an, Bible, Tripitaka and Gita etc. Many histories of war and destruction are found in these scriptures as well. Historically, the major reason for all war and destruction that has so far been in the world is this religious identity of man or religious ego. But man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1: 26-27) which was the best, in Hebrew it is צֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים,in Greek it is ‘Imago Dei’ the Islamic (Sufism) terminology, which is called Ashraful Makhlukat, meaning the best creature of creation.
The Bible says that, at the beginning of the creation, there were only two people in the world (Abel and Cain) but they killed one another (Genesis 4: 8). According to many scholars, Adam's descendants are all nations in today’s world who have some of the golden rules of God. No religion prompts people to commit sin (falsehood, hatred, hate, kill etc.), but rather gives caution to those things and advises all to abstain from sin. The Bible and the Qur'an both recognize that God has created all nations of the world through one man (Genesis 5: 1-2 and Qur'an 4: 1). However because of Adam's disobedience, mankind lost its identity in God or God's likeness as they were (Gen. 1:26). That's why every descendant of Adam has to be restored in God through Jesus Christ (Jn.14:6). That is why, every child of Adam must believe in the gospel of Christ, for the first Adam's disobedience human lost their true life. But the second Adam (Jesus Christ), obeyed God and fulfilled the law through dying on the cross (1 Corinthians 15: 45-49). Almighty God has shown his unselfish love for the world (sinful man) in his time (John 3: 16-17). Because of God’s love only, decedents of Adam are restored through his beloved son Jesus Christ (John 3: 35- 36).
The original father of faith(Genesis 12: 1-3), Abram (peace be upon him) made the fruits of his own flesh however God did not ignore Hagar and Ishmael but placed them in to His mercy too (Genesis 16: 10-12). From then on and today, millions of Muslims in this world are in the plan of restoration of God that is freely given. However, when this ultimate news of God's love for mankind comes to Muslims as 'Christianity', they mostly reject it but there are a few who humbly think about it. People of any faith do not want to abandon their paternal religion. If the good news of Jesus is offered as a religion, then people are rejecting the Gospel of Christ in the name of Christianity. Even though the Gospel has been preached in this region for more than three hundred years, only 0.5% are considered Christians, so far in Bangladesh. So it can be questioned - has God's plan to preach the good news of Christ as 'Christianity' in this country been a failure?
Usually, religions limit people into laws and traditions (Romans 2: 25-29). The apostle Paul says that God did not accept our original father Abram (peace be upon him) as righteous for the observance of a religion, but because of believing in God's Word he was proved innocent (Romans 4: 1-6). Again, when the Lord Jesus grew up in the Jewish society, the Jews and non-Jews, including the whole world, were ordered to accept the Gospel so that everyone could be saved from sin (Mark 16: 15-16). Jesus Christ wants to take everyone to his Father's house, because there is enough room for all (John 14: 2). In what religion can we name this work of reconciliation with his father? The Apostle James defines the religion as the true and righteous religion in the eyes of God the Father is to look after widows and orphans are in distress and to keep ourselves clean from all the filth of the world (James 1:27).
The Bible says that the followers of Christ were called first as Christian in Acts11:26, since then it continues, and in the same way followers of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are addressed as Muslims. It may be questioned whether the Lord Jesus himself sacrificed his life on the cross to demonstrate a religion. In fact, the Lord Jesus himself referred to his disciples in different names, such as a fisher of man (Matthew 4:19), the disciple (Matthew 9: 9 and Mark 2:14), servant (John 12:26), friend (John 15: 14), also referred to as his brother, sister and his mother (Matthew 12; 49). Then it seems that people are comforted more to find them in a religious identity. However, it is true that followers of Christ also should have a social and religious identity in society.
Apostle Paul says that the gospel of God is the power by which he accepts all people of the world as innocent, but people actually stop the truth of God by their wrongdoing and do not respect Him, so that God's wrath or judgment from heaven comes upon humans (Romans 1:16 -18). In the early church, there were problems with the religious identity between Jews and non-Jewish believers. Paul preached to the Jews as Jews and to the non-Jews as non-Jews. They were to be anchored to the Good News of Jesus (Romans 3: 29-30). Again, while preaching the good news in the city of Athens, Paul used to sit in the synagogues of the Jewish people and talk about God's subject. Seeing the idols among them, his heart became desperate, and in the name of the unknown god, he presented the true God to them. He said that this true God has created all the people in the world from one man and he has set the place where they will live. This God is not far away from anyone, but he wants us to seek him, because every human lives in the power of God (Acts 17: 26-28).
History says that the priests of the Roman Catholic Church kept the Word of God as their own, and held it in their possession. They believed that only they are chosen and qualified to read God's Word. Ordinary followers of Christ had no opportunity to read the Bible for themselves, because of this Roman Catholic power structure. According to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church during that time, a death certificate was available to avoid Purgatory until the soul went to heaven. This was sold as an 'Indulgence' or 'wish fullness'. Professor Martin Luther protested against this 'wish fullness' in 1517 and published his 95 theses papers. Since then, the believer or unbeliever can reach and read the word of God. God has opened up salvation for mankind but some people keep it in their own possession.
Professor William Carey translated the Bible into Bengali for the majority of Hindu religionist in that region, after coming to Calcutta in 1793. As a result, only the Hindu and lower caste people responded to the gospel of Christ, but Muslims rejected the same gospel message because of this linguistic and traditional differences. The Muslims of this country are still hostile against the gospel, because they think it is only a foreign religion. The question arises: as believers, are we still preaching the gospel of Christ as 'Christianity' in this country? The majority people of this country do not know the Gospel of God and reject it as the religion of others. So, will we present God's infinite grace and mercy as a religious barrier to them? Paul says that the gospel of Christ is the power of God, that he takes all the people as innocent. Therefore, the Lord Jesus commanded us to reach to the end of the world (Matthew 28: 1-20).
Actually, no tradition wants to change their original religion because it carries on their social identity. Does the Bible encourage people to change their traditional name, religion and social identity? Which religion has Jesus proclaimed through his gospel? Did he ever call his disciples as Christians? No. Rather, he knew beforehand and decides who will live in which society in this world. He wants people to seek him and find him. Moreover, through this gospel of Christ, all the people of the world will have the right to be children of God (Galatians (3: 26-29).
Apparently, it may seem that inter-religious relations between Muslims (88%) and Christians (0.4%) in our country is quite good. In fact, do Christians and Muslims in our country have enough opportunities to talk freely in a friendly environment with each other's scriptures and beliefs? Dr. Gordon Nickel, in his book ‘The Gentle Answer’ has stated that, due to our long-standing superstitious and politically hostile attitude, Muslims and non-Muslims have been refusing to study each other's Holy Scriptures. He also said that these restrictions make logical discussions impossible with each other in order to study the Holy Scriptures, and as a result, we remain in the old meditation notions of ourselves except for the contents of the Scriptures. So if we do not want to study, how can we talk logically together?
Therefore, when we take God's truth and light to the world as God's children, God enlightens this dark world by His Spirit. Then there is a relationship between human beings and human beings with God. It is relationships not a religion. In order to establish God's kingdom in his world, we are commanded to love God with all our strengths, our minds and all our souls, and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mk. 12:29-31). I do believe that, this is God's ‘religion’ for every human being in the world. Are we really following this true ‘religion’ of God to advance his kingdom in this world? Or are we following a traditional religion of rules that fails to bring all people together with God?
Nickel, Gordon D. The Gentle Answer to the Muslim Accusation of Biblical Falsification. Bruton Gate, 2015.