This question is usually asked because of the exclusive nature of the Christian faith. That is, Christians believe it is only through the completed work of Jesus on the cross and His subsequent resurrection, that a person can have a relationship with God. I believe that! Bible verses such as these are used to substantiate this:
In John 14:6, Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Acts 4:12 states “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
The problem arises when the exclusiveness of the Christian faith leads to a lack of tolerance and respect towards those of other faiths. Some Christians have been guilty of this for centuries – and those of other faiths have been equally guilty.
I believe that Jesus calls all people to live lives of love, tolerance and respect towards others. This is particularly born out in Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, in which he illustrates what it means to love our neighbour. A Jewish man is robbed. Two people of like faith show no compassion towards him. Then along comes a man of another faith – a Samaritan – and it is he who shows the qualities of compassion, love and respect. Jesus teaches that loving our neighbour means showing these qualities even towards those with whom we disagree. People of all religions would do well to heed Jesus’ teaching on this.
Even a casual look on the internet reveals the amount of persecution that is still going on in the world today – Christians being persecuted by Muslims; Muslims being persecuted by Christians; Buddhists being persecuted by Christians and Muslims; Christians being persecuted by Buddhists; Christians persecuting Hindus and vice versa – you get the picture? No wonder many people sit back and want nothing to do with religion.
As Christians we need to learn to move beyond the stereotypes. Yes, there are people with evil plans in every religion, but there are far more people of each religion who are good.
While we were on holiday last year in Malaysia I met two such people – two Muslim guys from Saudi Arabia. They were in their mid-twenties and we met over a game of water volleyball. Later that afternoon we sat together drinking tea and chatting about the differences and similarities in each other’s culture and faith. It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I’d had in ages and, dare I say, the presence of God was very evident while we chatted. This encounter reminded me of how similar human beings are. We might have differences in skin colour, eye shape, language, religion and culture; but we are all made in the image of God and we all came from the same parents – originally.
So, while we continue to hold to the exclusivity of our faith, let us also reach out in love, compassion, respect and tolerance to those who are different – and discover the similarities. One thing I know – this pleases the heart of God.
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