Monday, January 9, 2017

The Unique Claims of Christianity (1: Life)

We find the core of Christianity’s uniqueness in John 14:

“LET NOT YOUR HEARTS BE TROUBLED. BELIEVE IN GOD; BELIEVE ALSO IN ME. IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE ARE MANY ROOMS. IF IT WERE NOT SO, WOULD I HAVE TOLD YOU THAT I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU? AND IF I GO AND PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU, I WILL COME AGAIN AND WILL TAKE YOU TO MYSELF, THAT WHERE I AM YOU MAY BE ALSO. AND YOU KNOW THE WAY TO WHERE I AM GOING.” 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.

Jesus makes claims here that He is the only answer to our problem of sin and death. Let’s look at His three claims in reverse order:

The Life

Jesus, unlike all other religious leaders in history, did not just teach us about right living, He showed us life as it was supposed to be lived. And He showed us a glimpse of what He called the Kingdom of God. A World where things would be the way that they were supposed to be. That is the hope that Jesus offered us. Here He tells His disciples that He will be preparing them a place in the eternal Kingdom of God. A restored creation where Heaven and Earth are together and man again has a relationship with the Creator and where purpose is experienced. And, His followers live life here in this sinful, fallen world where death rules with that Kingdom already in them. We are to be a continuing taste of real life.

Many other religious systems, especially since Christ, have also taught about such a life. Secular Humanism today tries to teach the sort of ethical, loving life that Jesus offered, only they try to offer such a life without Christ and without God. In their case, such a life is inconsistent with their worldview. There is no convincing motivation to live a selfless life without eternity or God. In fact, many Secular Humanists try to offer reasons for love, selflessness, and sacrifice by appealing to selfish motivations. But these inconsistent arguments all fall apart when examined closely.

Intolerance: One argument often raised against Christianity when we read John 14:6 is that Christianity and Jesus are Intolerant. This is far from true. In fact, the idea of tolerance the way it is taught today is intolerant.

Today tolerance is taken to mean an acceptance of everything. However, the way that it is practiced, demeans everything that is “tolerated.” We don’t give differing viewpoints the respect of meaning anything. Once again, when everything is equally valid it just means everything is equally invalid.

What Jesus modeled was true tolerance. He demonstrated and taught real life. He also gave people a real choice to embrace that life or to reject it. He loved everyone and He interacted with everyone. He ate with the sinners that the religious people of His day rejected. He did not tell people that they were fine the way that they were. He called for repentance and change, but He respected people enough to allow them to reject His calling. Admittedly, sometimes Christians are intolerant. But Jesus was not our example of this. We need to be tolerant the way that He was tolerant.

That truer form of tolerance is for people to believe what they believe and respect other beliefs enough to acknowledge that they are different. What is more respectful to difference: To say that everything is basically the same ignoring what they are saying or living? Or to say that people are different, perhaps even wrong, but respect their right to be different and wrong? In truly tolerant society there would be animated but respectful debate. There would be an acknowledgement of difference and a respect for the rights of people to think differently without kidding ourselves into thinking we are all saying the same thing.

In fact, tolerance implies disagreement. We accept things that we agree with. We can only tolerate things we disagree with. (And then there are ideas so wrong that we do not tolerate them, and no one should.)

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