A survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2014 revealed how different Christianity is from the world’s other main religions.
The dramatic difference showed up when Pew asked people if they believed in a personal God or if they considered God an impersonal force or an “it.”
The key being a personal God is one you can have a relationship with.
According to the survey, 70% of Christians believed in a personal God. Among Christians, Evangelicals scored the highest with 80% believing in a personal God. But in one sense I was shocked that 20% didn’t believe this.
Among Catholics only 61% believed in a personal God. Even though they were on the low side for Christianity, the Catholic percentage was double that of the other four main world religions.
Pew found that only 25% of the Jews surveyed considered Jehovah a personal God. They were higher than the Buddhists where only 23% believed the same, but lower than Muslims and Hindus where 32% of respondents believed in a personal god.
I was surprised by how low the Jewish numbers were. When you look at the Biblical account of creation, it is clear God is personal and interested in a relationship with humanity as Jehovah walked in the Garden with Adam and Even and spoke with them (Genesis 3:8-10).
But Jews scored the polar opposite of Christians even though we share the Old Testament. It is clear the difference between the two groups is Jesus whom most Jews rejected as their Messiah.
With Jehovah coming in human form (John 1:1, 14), Jesus personalized God in a very unique way. Jesus revealed God was interested in a personal relationship with people.
In John 15:14, Jesus referred to His disciples as friends. People could be friends with God.
In an effort to discredit Jesus, the pharisees went one step further and accused Jesus of being “friends with sinners” because He associated with tax collectors and women of suspect reputation (Matthew 11:19).
Through His willingness to eat with sinners, Jesus accepted people in their sin, but then encouraged them to sin no more (John 8:11).
Jesus revealed the heart of God in the Old Testament who was willing and over joyed to forgive people if they repented.
“For you, Lord, are good and ready to forgive. And abundant in loving kindness to all who call upon You.” (Psalm 86:5 NASV)
Unfortunately, because the Jews rejected Jesus, they missed this critical step in their relationship with Jehovah.
Jesus was even interested in befriending pharisees, if they were willing, as we find the Lord dining with Simon the pharisee (Luke 7:36-49).
But Jesus took this personal relationship one step further and allowed us to become children of God if we accepted Christ.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, (John 1:12 NASV)
For Christians, our faith involves a family relationship with their heavenly Father.
Muslim imam converts because of relationship
A while back, I wrote about the remarkable conversion of Mario Joseph. Before he became a Christian, Mario was a Muslim imam in India. As God moved on him, he began to read the Muslim Qur’an and the Bible at the same time.
It was then he noticed the stark contrast between the Muslim religion and Christianity and it all revolved around their relationship with God.
According to Mario, Muslims believed that Allah is the master and that people are his slaves. Allah does not love his slaves and there is no possibility of a relationship. But with Christianity, Mario realized he could become a child of God and that God would become his Father, even Daddy.
“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15 NASV)
This was the type of personal relationship he wanted and at this point, Mario set aside the Qur’an and fully embraced Christ and the Bible.
Below is a chart from the Pew survey: