"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
- Jesus, John 14:6
I knew the story, and believed its message, long before I saw the movie. Except for deepening my view that the death and resurrection of Jesus was the only way a sinful mankind could be reconciled to a holy God, nothing in The Passion of the Christ, or the criticism it inspired, changed that belief. What I didn't know, however, before the movie made its dramatic entrance onto the media stage, was how little those who are not Christians know about what we believe.
Forget the anti-Semitism, R-rated violence, and "God-through-Mel-Gibson's-eyes" criticism of the movie. Oozing from the pores of most critics is a rage, not only at Gibson but at anyone in this politically correct generation who dares to claim that Christianity is the only way to God.
"What?" thundered the talk-show host. "Are you saying people from other religions won't go to heaven because they don't believe in Jesus? Well, caller, you just lost me. I'll never accept a God who condemns half the world because they don't believe your way!"
Well, fellow Christians, how do we answer that? Better, I hope, than the stuttering callers who tried to defend the first caller's position, but were no match for the angry host.
My head is full of "memory verses," like those that convinced the early Christians Jesus was "the way, etc," (John 14:6), and they repeated across the first-century world.
But if someone doesn't accept the Bible, what do we say then? We could join the tolerant generation, too, or follow the example of the Apostle Paul who ignored rejection and kept on telling the good news in hopes that, "by all possible means we might win some" (I Corinthians 9:22).
In preparation for a two-year survey of the Bible, Dr. Philip Johnson addressed the how-do-we-know-it's-true question by turning to the words of Jesus. As usual, in his superb teaching style, Jesus made the answer the responsibility of the questioner: "If a man chooses to know God's will, he will know whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17)
Ever since that first day in Johnson's class, I've noticed two major obstacles to becoming a Christian. The first, as Jesus said, is not "choosing to know," and the second is not believing there is a need for someone else - a savior - to bridge the gap between God and ourselves. It takes less energy to continue an established faith - or no faith - than to adopt something new, and it's easier on the pride to think we can get to God without his help.
If you've read the Bible, then you know how many ways God gave his people to stay in fellowship with him, and how many times he let them try to do it themselves.
Adam and Eve had a perfect existence - no storms, disease, thorns on roses, etc. - but they weren't satisfied. They wanted freedom to do as they pleased all the time. The Children of Israel wanted freedom, too, and a land of their own. They had both, until they began complaining about their leaders, the missing pleasures back in Egypt, and eventually about God himself.
The Old Testament is filled with the rise and fall of this group of people, not to single them out but to illustrate through them what God wants to do for all mankind. When they lived His way they prospered; when they disobeyed God they fell into the hands of their enemies. By the time the New Testament begins, they have lost both their freedom and their land. Finally, after every human effort to atone for their sins failed, God, in one last act of love, sent his perfect "way" for all mankind to enter his presence again.
Life is a continual tension between tyranny and anarchy. We detest the former, yet there is chaos when "everyone does what is right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6). If history, Biblical or otherwise, proves nothing else, it reveals that mankind hasn't been very successful in finding that balanced way alone, and no other faith offers an external way back to God. All other religions expect their followers to live the best they can and hope that's good enough on Judgment Day.
Christians are not exclusionary. They simply accept God's "way" for themselves and, in obedience to his command (Matthew 28:19-20), proclaim it to the rest of the 21st century world.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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