Sunday May 10, 2009
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12.
In our day of tolerance these are fighting words. It goes against the politically correct notion that all religions are equal and none is exclusive, leading to accusations of intolerance and bigotry for those who think different. Today’s text and Jesus words in John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” give us little choice in the matter. Jesus’ claim to be the only way to God and Christian desire to share the freedom found in him is the driving force behind Christian evangelisation.
Of all the religions in the world, only Christianity and Islam aggressively seek to expand their message of exclusiveness. Thus the stage is set for confrontation between these faiths, and the current visit of the Pope to the Holy Land and his apparently contradictory statements about Islam highlight this dilemma. Space does not allow for listing all the differences between Christianity and Islam, but one thing stands out: the mass migration of Muslims away from Islamic countries to the west.
From the many Muslim families Ann and I have known, it is clear that the majority seek a place of freedom and safety for their families, away from the oppressive rule of most Islamic states. Given the chance, they are good hardworking citizens glad of the opportunity of living in the west. Contrary to the fears frequently expressed of the inevitable Islamization of the western nations, and apart from the small radical elements in their midst, I believe that most western Muslims don’t want their adopted country turned into the coercive one they left. They want what most Christians want: freedom to practise their faith in peace.
So how do we square our desire to evangelize with the freedom of others to practise their faith? Is conflict between Christianity and Islam at a personal level inevitable? In considering this question, I am brought back to the story of the rich ruler who chose his wealth rather than following Christ (Luke 18:18-23). Jesus was saddened by this man’s choice but allowed him that freedom. While we may have the opportunity to share our faith with those of other beliefs, if we love them and wish to retain their friendship, we will allow them their freedom of choice also.
The current cultural idea of tolerance is one that imposes the idea of the equality of all religions. True tolerance allows for acceptance of another but without compromise of personal belief.