So I ask, "How are they different?"
She looks at me and says in a hard, pointed tone, "Christianity is the truth, and everything else is a lie."
I wait a moment and then ask, "And that is supposed to be enough for me to embrace the Cross, fall on my knees, confess my sins, and find salvation?"
Her breathing goes shallow, and her eyes look at me as though she can't believe I have the audacity to take up oxygen. "It's the truth."
"And that is it? That's the best you've got? Because if I am anything other than a Christian, that means nothing to me. If I am anything other than a Christian, I think I know the truth, and that whole God killing people because He's having a tantrum thing is not going to cut it for me."
She leans forward. "Just because they refuse the truth doesn't make it untrue."
"They aren't refusing the truth. You simply aren't telling them the truth."
She is disgusted with me and my abandonment of God's truth as the absolute truth. I'm not very impressed by her either, but, I've been her, and there is hope for us both.
Honestly, I haven't abandoned God's truth as absolute. If anything, I am more convinced of it than ever, not because someone told me it was truth and said not to question it but because I went rogue and questioned everything.
I started singing my own wild version of Berean Rhapsody and came out the other side with an understanding of Christ and His heart. I gave up the law that had been drilled into my head and embraced the love that was trying to change my heart. I studied topics such as baptism, hell, sin, salvation, the Holy Spirit and how it functions, along with gifts and fruits and holiness. Now when people want to have a conversation about Christ and the Bible, I can speak to their questions, not just regurgitate rote "truth".
I also read about other religions so I could have respectful conversations with those believers. Love is respectful, right? Love values the other person, right? I'm not saying I have to value the theology, but I need to value the road that person took to reach that destination. Only in understanding their road can I understand and speak to the ways Christianity is different and how it would have handled something differently.
I looked at my friend and stared at the arrogance she robed herself in, an arrogance I was all too familiar with because after all, I had it right, and those heathens were...heathens. In that second, I could have been the arrogant one because I know the truth about the differences. I know Christ, not just Christianity. I could have rolled my eyes, let her be disgusted, and rationalized my silence. Instead...
"There are two major differences between Christianity and any other belief system.
One, every other belief system is built around the idea that a person can earn a better afterlife through self-perfection. All the work is on that person to get better, do better. They are a save yourself system. Christianity is the acceptance that we can't save ourselves, that we can only be saved through Christ. Everything we really need has to be done for us because we are helpless to do it ourselves.
Two, in the other religions, you may get 'enlightenment' from some source, but you are on your own to make it happen, to make your life happen, to be the person you want to be. In Christ, you are never on your own. God is always reaching. We just have to realize how desperately we need to be found."
The difference between that Buddhist and me? I saw the hand reaching for me and took it. They either haven't seen it or haven't taken it, but God is still reaching. Who knows but that I am the one He is reaching with. I'll never reach them, though, if all I have to offer is a swap from one law to another. If I want to reach them, I need more than a law. I need love. And that is the absolute truth.
2014 Jerri Kelley Phillips
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