John 14:5-6 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Some university students once approached me for help on a research project on world religions. They even brought their own wide range of spiritual backgrounds: some were Muslims, at least one was Hindu, and another was raised Jehovah’s Witness.
The questions they pressed the hardest were about the exclusivity of Jesus. I tried to lovingly but clearly explain that Christians believe Christ alone saves because Christ himself taught that. He was put to death for saying it, and for 2000 years Christians have said the same thing and suffered in similar ways.
At the outset I feared I would unnecessarily offend these nice people I had just met, so I tried my best to be tactful. During the conversation, a student visiting from an Islamic-ruled country made me rethink. He said, “You are a Christian and I am a Muslim. We worship different Gods and believe different things. It does not offend me when Christians say that because it is true. What offends me is when people who do not understand our religions say they are basically teaching the same thing, because they are not.”
Our discussion turned to the difference between our religions. The Hindu said it was reincarnation and not resurrection that would deal with our problems. The Muslim said it was our faithful life and not Jesus’ faithful life that counts. And the Jehovah’s Witness said that Christians were wrong about Jesus and that the only real church was his.
It became obvious as we talked that we all thought the followers of other religions were wrong and would pay for their error in the life to come. We each tried to make the best case for our belief system in hopes of compelling the others to consider it for themselves. While I disagreed with the others, their beliefs were genuine. And because they were trying to help me by converting me, I felt loved.
Sharing this feeling, illusionist and atheist Penn Jillette tells a story about getting handed a Bible after a show. “I wanted you to have this,” the man said. “I’m kind of proselytizing. I’m a businessman. I’m sane. I’m not crazy.” The man likely knew he was talking to a resolute atheist, but he was neither aggressive nor defensive. He just looked Jillette in the eye, said some kind words about the show, and gave his gift. The outspoken Jillette says this about the encounter:
I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell—or not getting eternal life or whatever—and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…. How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
Jillette concludes, “This guy was a really good guy. Polite and honest and sane—and he cared enough about me to proselytize and give me a Bible.”
Jesus says, ““I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Christianity is the most exclusive of all religions. Jesus is the ONLY WAY to heaven. But it is also the most inclusive, because all are welcome in the Only Way. In some religions you must be of a particular race, ethnicity, or people group, but all nations are invited to the Only Way. In some religions, you need to learn Hebrew or Arabic, but all tongues are welcome to the Only Way. In some religions, you must be smart and studious, but in the Only Way even the simple can find the way. In some religions, you need to be rich so you can buy your seat or go through layers of teaching, training, and cleansing, but in the Only Way the poorest of the poor are welcome.
Have you accepted Jesus as your only way to heaven? Who do you need to share this devotional with?