What sets Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ apart from prophets or other spiritual guides and spiritual leaders?
This was a question posed during a recent Sunday sermon at my church. What makes Christianity and Christ stand out and what makes this spiritual path what it is?
Jesus claims to be the Son of God. Jesus also claims that He dwells within the Father and the Father dwells within Him. He is in union with God. God is in union with Jesus. Jesus was born of a virgin and the Holy Spirit and descended from God, the Creator of all Heaven and Earth. Jesus was there in the beginning of creation, as the Word. Jesus claims to be the Way, the Truth, and the Light. Jesus claims the only way to the Father, God, our Creator, is through Him. To know Jesus is to know God and to know God is to know Jesus.
Does this imply or suggest that the only way to heaven is through Jesus? Does this suggest that Jesus is the only means of achieving salvation and eternal life? If God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one or three aspects of a single divine Creator, does this mean that Christians hold a monopoly on the path to heaven? Is Christianity the only way to save one’s soul?
The works of the Bible do not claim to be politically correct. They do not claim to be aware of current societal trends or popular societal norms. The Bible does not claim to be a reflection of 20th or 21st or even 19th century sensibilities. More accurately, the Bible is a literary tapestry of reflections of a history going back to the 1st century AD and much, much earlier. That being said, the Bible also doesn’t claim to be a historical archive or complete chronicle of all human experience and history for the Middle East or Fertile Crescent or Israel or Mesopotamia or the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. Current archaeological efforts can support some of the Bible’s historical narratives and in some cases, it cannot or has yet to do so with present efforts. More research is needed and more digging into the past is likely.
Jesus claims He is the one true path and way. It is a matter of whether we wish to believe that or not. It is the biggest challenge Christians face I think. Is Jesus the exclusive means to salvation? It may not be what the world wants to hear. We want to live in a society that is inclusive, not exclusive. We want to believe in respecting the faiths and beliefs of others– whether they be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, or Wiccan. We want to live in a world where everyone’s perspective and points of view and identity can be respected and given equal space. Can such an approach actually exist in Christianity?
I don’t know. And not knowing, frightens me. I can share what Jesus has to say to the humanity He is trying to reach. Yet I cannot make you believe. I cannot make you believe His words have more value than say the words of Lao Tzu in the “Tao Te Ching” or in the teachings of Buddha or in the stories of the indigenous peoples of North America or Australia. I am not entirely sure myself.
I consider Jesus to be an honest, compassionate man. Do I fully understand what Jesus means when He says the Father dwells within Him and He dwells within the Father? Do I fully comprehend His existence and relationship with God and the Holy Spirit? No. I’d be expressing arrogance if I did. I’d be expressing wisdom I don’t have and insights I don’t have access to.
I have been considering that the Bible isn’t the whole story. It is perhaps one thread belonging to a much grander tapestry. I believe more has been written than what has been canonized by the Nicene Councils. I believe there are more books to be found dating back to the first 100 years A.D. I believe there are other testaments and testimonies yet to be discovered and revealed.
I suspect that there are other voices that need to be heard. I suspect that God has worked through others to spread His message. I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I do believe that. Yet I also believe God can manifest however He wishes and deliver His message and work through any people He wishes. I believe God can do much more than what is contained in the Bible. I believe if God wishes there be a single path to salvation, it may be so. Yet I also believe that it is possible God is a God of possibilities and relationships. I believe God knows us from the moment of conception and understands that each of is unique with unique needs and understandings and perceptions. Maybe we all will come to Christ in the end, who knows… but how we get there may be up to an individual spiritual journey that passes through a variety of territories.
I suspect that God will find a way to gather those He wishes to save. God will get His message across to those that need to hear it or want to hear it. So far though, to my humble understanding of things thus far, only Christ seems to claim an intimate and direct connection with God and the path to salvation and it is through God’s grace that all of us can be saved through Jesus Christ as our savior. We must consider these claims and try and understand them if we hope to believe in them.