Recently a neighbor came to my door to exchange a plate of Christmas cookies. In our front yard, we had a rather large plywood cutout of the manger scene. My neighbor said she and her family noticed our display. They are Hindus, and are proud of the priestly caste from which they come. The display obviously made them think a bit. Her conclusion was that as long as we both believe in one God (Hindus believe their thousands of gods are all emanations of Brahman) then we must both be in good status.
I didn’t feel like that was the moment to correct her. They are nice, if not overly private, neighbors. I want them to be with me in Heaven. But they clearly don’t know Jesus. So maybe it is Hindu for Indians, Judaism for Jews, being nice for Agnostics and so on. Just different paths up the same mountain as the saying goes.
Such a belief is comforting and it absolves us of the uncomfortable task of sharing the Gospel, but I have to believe it is dead wrong. Salvation is not the reward for believing in one god or any gods. It is not the outcome of being a nice person, because we are not nearly nice enough. Not by a long shot. Salvation is the result of our Creator forgiving us, and God is not a being who forgives by ignoring His own Law.
Every religion teaches a way of life. To be honest the things we consider to be moral are mostly the same. It is the way that we receive forgiveness that varies greatly. Jesus and other writers of the Bible make the claim of exclusivity very clear. There is only one way to forgiveness. “I am the way, the truth, and the life”, says Jesus, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus doesn’t offer a procedure. He offers Himself as the lone, perfect human giving Himself to fulfill the requirements of God’s Law. If this were one of many ways, then the Jesus way wouldn’t exist at all. The sacrifice that Jesus made was too great.
It’s unsettling to think of “nice”, “religious” people, who don’t know Jesus as Savior, being eternally lost. I don’t like it. I don’t want it. But that doesn’t change the reality of it. The common morals, or belief in one god, can be a starting point for conversation, but it takes more than that. It takes Jesus as Savior.