An Open Mind - Sort Of - 12/08/2002
Have you never heard of freedom of religion: the freedom to worship or not worship any deity you so choose? It is my experience that if you study the word "Christian" for its true meaning "Christ-like," that most people who call themselves Christians are not Christ-like at all, and the most Christ-like people I know are not followers of a Christian religion. Christ taught about love and tolerance and acceptance. He did not condemn those of other religions. In fact, he befriended those who were not socially accepted. The only people he ever criticized were the Pharisees who displayed hatred, intolerance, and a "holier-than-thou" attitude. It seems to me that many Christian, especially Protestant, religions preach and teach the hatred that Jesus so despised. Perhaps you should view the world in this manner. Yes, there is a common
higher power, but there are many names for that higher power, and many ways to worship and praise that power. It only makes sense that spirituality should be culture-specific. Spirituality is a very personal thing and what is right for one is not necessarily right for everyone. And remember, before you retort with "the Bible says," the Bible is not the only spiritual record and there are millions of people who have never, nor will ever read the Bible. I have read the Bible as well as the Koran, the Baghavad-Gita, the teachings of Buddha, and various mythologies. It is all mythology and no one has the right to say that one is more right than the other. Instead, stand fast in your beliefs, but open your minds to the possibility that there are beauty and validity to be found in all religions, as long as they be based on love, tolerance, acceptance, openness, respect and care for the peoples and creatures of this Earth. Do not be the Pharisees of a Religion of Hatred and Intolerance.
CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:
Greetings Gabrielle, and thank you for contacting us at Contender Ministries. Yes, we have heard of the freedom of religion and we cherish it. Fortunately, we live in the United States, where Christians face only scorn, ridicule, and criticism for our "intolerant" or "exclusive" faith. In many other countries, Christians face imprisonment or death for openly practicing their faith -- especially in China and nations that are under Islamic Shariah law.
You make many mentions to the teachings of Jesus. You are correct when you say that Jesus taught about love, tolerance, and acceptance. In fact, Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God and love one another. Yet you ignore the other teachings of Jesus. When taken as a whole, the gospel shows that love, tolerance, and acceptance of others does not mean that everyone is correct. If all religions were correct, He would not have given His disciples the Great Commission, which in Matthew 28:18-20 states, "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.' "
No, not all religions are correct. There is an absolute truth in this world, and Jesus taught of that. John 14:6 says, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" That's pretty exclusive, isn't it? You mention that their is a common higher power. Well, there is one higher power, and Jesus is the only way. That pretty much excludes all those who disregard Jesus or view Him simply as a great man. In John 3:16-18 Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." That shows that while Jesus loves and accepts all persons, those who do not believe in Him are condemned.
What did Jesus think about Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Shintoism, Paganism, and all non-Christian religious beliefs? In Matthew 7:13-14 he said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Jesus is that narrow gate and that narrow road. The other religous beliefs are pavement on that broad road that leads to destruction. In Matthew 24 he gives us several warnings. In verses 4 and 5 Jesus said, "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many." In verses 11 and 12 He continues, "and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." And finally in verse 24 He says, "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible." If all religions were true, as you seem to claim, how could there be such a thing as "false" christs and "false" prophets? How could people be "deceived" by them, if everyone is correct?
Well, the answer is that not all religions are correct. Jesus said it most succinctly when He said that He is "THE way and THE truth and THE life." As a follower of Christ, a Christian, I must believe everything He has said. To that end I know that He is the only path to salvation. I know that because of Christ's love for all, and because of the love He commands me to have for others, I must help spread His word. I must confront lies and deception, in order that the lost may find the truth that exists only in Jesus Christ. I must follow the Great Commission He has given us in Matthew 28:18-20. I can do no less and still be a true follower of Jesus. Yet there are many that say what you have said, and seem to feel that freedom of religion does not apply to Christianity. Jesus said that many would reject us, but we must continue to spread the gospel. The word "gospel" actually means "good news." You know what the good news is? The good news is that while there is only one path to salvation, it is a path that is FREE TO EVERYONE. I pray that your eyes would be open to Jesus and that the Holy Spirit would minister to your heart. The only true joy, happiness, and salvation is found through Jesus Christ, and I pray that you will come to experience that for yourself.
Ben and Jennifer Rast