This past Sunday we had a guest minister preach in church. He is actually with us for four weeks, though I missed the first week. He is a local youth minister named Chris Nye who has a blog of his own called We Are Made of Sound.
I thoroughly enjoyed his message on Sunday. He is doing a series on finding Jesus in the Psalms, a great series for anyone who loves the Psalms as much as I do. Finding Jesus in the Old Testament in general is one of my passions.
But I wanted to share something else from his message and the thought that occurred to me as I was listening to him speak. He was talking about the issue many people have with the exclusive claim of Christianity to be the only way to heaven. He presented two analogies that many people use to illustrate that there are actually many ways to God and that just because different people see things differently doesn’t mean they can’t all be right or that any one of them can know that they are right.
The first analogy is the famous one of the group of blind men and the elephant, where each blind man feels a different part of the elephant and comes to a different conclusion about what an elephant is like. The other was the analogy of the mountain, in which God is at the top of the mountain and each religion is a different path or trail up the side of the mountain. All paths or trails lead to the same God at the top.
It was the second analogy that really made me think. Chris pointed out that the person who says that all of the trails or paths lead to the same place is just as exclusive as those navigating those trails trying to get to God. The difference is that this person claims to have the unique perspective of standing back from the mountain (or maybe even being on top of the mountain) and being able to see where all of the trails or paths lead. He, in essence, claims to view matters from the perspective of God himself. It takes a great deal of pride and arrogance to presume that one has that kind of knowledge. It is a perspective that claims to be all-inclusive, but is in reality exclusive of anyone who believes that any single path or religion is the correct one. The difference between the true Christian and the one who believes he can see that all roads lead to God is the difference between pride and humility.
As I listened to Chris’ message, a thought occurred to me related to this analogy. The difference between Christianity and every other major religion in the world is that it is not one of the many path’s up the mountain to God. True Christianity and relationship with our creator is found when one stands at the bottom of the mountain or halfway up a mountain trail and says, “God, I can’t make it up this mountain to You and I need You to come get me.” It is then that the God of the universe leaves the top of the mountain with open arms to scoop up and rescue His lost creation.
The Gospel reading for Sunday was from John 14:1-7:
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (NIV).
The way to God is not a path we must navigate on our own. It is a person named Jesus who came to earth to bring us home. He took the hard path from the throne of heaven to a manger and then to the cross and the resurrection. Jesus said to His disciples and to us, “I will come back and take you with me.” Our God is not some distant being who has left us to climb some perilous mountain to try to reach Him. A very small percentage of the human race has ever made it to the top of the highest mountain on earth, Mt. Everest. None is able to make it to God by their own efforts. Thanks be to God we don’t have to.