A few days before the New Year, I started studying the Bible with a 22-year-old Buddhist monk whom I will call Gamon. I met him when a fellow teacher introduced us. Gamon and I started studying the Bible using the Discovery Bible Studies. These studies are focused strictly on the Bible text, not on outside material or human thoughts and opinions. It can be challenging, but we stick to the regimen, studying each section as it comes and not referring to future stories. This method has proven to be very effective with people who know nothing about Jesus.
Since I was on winter break and had lots of time, we studied together four nights in that first week. We started off with “In the beginning . . .” Gamon is a broadminded scholar of world religions. He seemed to easily understand and accept the story of creation as revealed in scripture. He was quite interested in the story of sin’s entry into the world, and the seed of the woman who would crush the serpent’s head. He loved the story of Noah and the ark. He was amazed at the humility of Abraham and his faith in God.
Then we came to the story of God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. I should have known there was going to be a problem with this story. One of the main tenets of Buddhism is that killing is forbidden. I knew this, but somehow it didn’t occur to me at the time. Gamon could not understand why God would command Abraham to kill his only son, not to mention the killing of the ram caught in the thicket. But by the time the study ended, he was willing to trust me that there was a reason for the killing. After Gamon left, I realized that the next story was the Passover.
I was anxious the next evening. How does one explain to a Buddhist monk the absolute necessity of blood sacrifice? It makes sense to Christians, but to Gamon it would seem senseless and immoral. After seeing his response to the story about the sacrifice of Isaac, I was certain that the slaughter of 600,000 or so lambs in one night was not going to sit well with him. We went through the scripture reading twice. He said he understood that it was symbolic and not just killing for the sake of killing. I reminded him that I couldn’t tell the whole story yet, but I asked him to remember the serpent and the head-crusher we learned about in Genesis 3. He nodded and said he understood.
This young monk is already making life-altering decisions. He desperately wants to leave the monastery, but he is terrified at the prospect of losing his room and board with no prospects of other income. I asked him if he has been praying to the God of the Bible. He said he has. I told him how much God loves him and wants him to be happy. I told him that God is a personal God and that He cares about us more than we will ever understand. I assured Gamon that he can trust God to do what is best for him. He was hesitant to believe. Fear had a powerful grip on him. Not only that, but he was fighting to escape the grasp of the enemy and his Buddhist system of lies and death. He finally nodded his head in agreement that God would take care of him. I asked him if I should pray and he said without reservation, “Yes.” I didn’t see tears, but as I was praying I am pretty sure I heard him choke up.
Gamon is still in the “studying other religions” stage, but the more he is exposed to the Word of God and continues to pray, the more his faith in the God of creation is likely to grow. Please join the Tai-Kadai project in praying that, like Gamon, other people in Southeast Asia will be attracted to the light that God has planted in this dark corner of the world.