Flying is a wonder of modern technology and a convenient way to travel. As a youth I occasionally flew with my father, who had a pilot’s license. Throughout my life I’ve had the privilege of accessing air travel in order to arrive at a number of wonderful and exciting destinations!
One of the critical and dangerous components of an aerial journey is the landing. For some people, the approach just prior to touch down is quite nerve-wracking. In my experience, I’ve flown into a number of destinations where the approach to the runway is over water. As the plane continues to descend just above the surface of the water, sometimes it seems as though we will get wet. “No!” I’ve thought on occasion. How the mind can play tricks on a person. Have you been there? I have!
To ponder the precision it takes to land the airplane after hours and hundreds of miles in the sky is mind-bending. And to think – there is only one way to safely land the plane – on the assigned runway!
If the plane touches down in virtually any other place but the runway, almost certain destruction awaits for all. Despite this possibility, albeit remote, we still step onto those “big birds”, don’t we?
Just as air travel is a journey, so is a person’s spiritual walk – the walk of life. For when Jesus taught about the spiritual journey, He provided the starkest contrast between two gates leading to two destinations – one leading to life, the other destruction:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14
The word “enter” implies action, as in walking. This action involves movement and for some, intentionality. For all people, life is a journey, but what of the ultimate destination?
In Matthew 7:13-14 the Lord contrasted two gates leading to two ways that end up in two destinations. He proclaimed the narrow gate which leads to life and the wide gate that leads to destruction. In John 10:9 He added: “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.”
Jesus will later in Matthew 7:24-27 close His sermon contrasting the destinies of the wise and foolish builder – safety and destruction.
Finally, in John 14:6 Jesus left no doubt as to the way to God, when He declared: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
It seems to me that most people, regardless of religious persuasion or lack thereof, are attracted to the idea of eternal bliss. People generally agree that the idea of heaven, paradise, or nirvana is a desirable reality, even if they actually believe it to be a myth constructed by man.
People often object to the exclusive nature of the Christian truth claim – that Jesus is the only way to God. For it offends human sensibilities, causing many to simply scoff at God’s provision of salvation, forgiveness and eternal life found only in Jesus. In short, many cringe that God would have the audacity to, in short, say, “My way or the highway!”
This message of Jesus in the first century was exclusive in nature, and thus it remains the nature of our message today. For “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Once I was witnessing to a friend of my sister-in-law I’ll call Don, who was Hindu. In Hinduism, nirvana is the place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven. And the way a person arrives at nirvana is through reincarnation.
As I was explaining the gospel to Don, I mentioned that adherents to most religions desire to experience heaven, paradise, or nirvana. I asked him if he agreed with that statement, and he did.
I then added, “One difference between your belief and my belief is simply the vehicle by which we get there. Your believe it’s through reincarnation; I believe it’s only through faith in Jesus.” In short, I was stating that Jesus is the way, and there are no other ways.
Religious pluralism generally refers to the belief in two or more religious worldviews as being equally valid or acceptable. In practical terms, religious pluralism is a view that all religions are equally valid. More than mere tolerance, religious pluralism accepts multiple paths to God or gods as a possibility and is usually contrasted with “exclusivism,” the idea that there is only one true religion or way to know God.
And because it is politically correct and sensible to many people, religious pluralism is growing here in the West. So, one of the challenges we face in our present twenty-first century pluralistic environment as witnesses for Jesus is this: How do we, “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15), share the exclusive nature of the gospel and the person of Jesus without coming off as arrogant, insensitive, narrow-minded, or bigoted?
First, we can share that while the way to God is narrow and exclusive, the beauty of the gospel is the inclusiveness of its invitation:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
If Christianity is true, then we must accept all of Jesus’ teachings. He doesn’t give us the option to pick and choose.
Secondly, for those who object to one way, we can throw the proverbial ball in their court. We might ask, “Well, tell me how you think we get to God and why you believe that?” Remember, defending one’s worldview, or giving an apologia, is not exclusive. In other words, the one you are speaking with must be held to the same standard, defending what they believe and why they believe it.
In having faith conversations with people, we may make valid and powerful points articulating and defending our view. But sometimes in asking others to articulate their own view, our question may reveal a lack of clarity on their part as to why they hold to such a position of antagonism, and create doubt in the process.
This doubt about their own position, may be a tool the Holy Spirit uses to draw them to the truth that Jesus is the way!
May the Lord grow our witness in articulating the way to those whose ultimate spiritual landing spot is still off course.
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 2:5