Is the Exclusivity of Jesus a Problem for You?

Jesus is the only way to the good life. God, heaven, and all good things have one road: Jesus.

I realize that this is not what people want to hear. It's not trending. One of the main objections that de-churched and unchurched people have is this question of exclusivity. Christianity for them just seems too narrow.

I remember thinking the same thing in my atheism, and whenever I doubt I go back to these thoughts.

So I get the concern, and I do think a lot of Christians make the way far too narrow because we can’t see beyond our own tribe.

We add our own list on top of the exclusivity of Jesus, and it's way way way too narrow. If you have to be right wing or left wing, or if you have to wear a t-shirt or give up dancing, or if you have to like pipesmoking and grow a beard and wear hipster plaid, or if you have to live in suburbia or in the city to come, then it's too much for some people. We make Christianity into a club, and then turn it into a weird sub-cult. 

But say we shed all the excess that makes people want to run for the hills. All the stuff that gets in the way of coming to faith. Exclusivity is still something that Jesus taught—whether we like it or not.

In the Gospel of John, he says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me" (emphasis added).

These three refrains (way, truth, life) highlight the particularity or the exclusivity of Jesus. Reconciliation, and revelation, and redemption are all found exclusively in Jesus. You can’t find them anywhere else but through him.

But because of philosophical religious pluralism, the idea that all religions have a place at the table and are all of equal value, this general mood makes it hard for people to accept Christianity as the only way out of many options. 

Regularly you might hear the question: “How can Christians claim that Jesus is the only way when we are surrounded by truth and so many good people of other faiths?” 

We might even find more loving people in other religions. Mormons go door to door, what do most Christians do? Sit on their behinds. Followers of other faiths seem to be much more friendly and less hostile. I've been shown great hospitality by non-religious people, while religious people have treated me with disdain, hatred, envy, or never invited me over.

This makes Christianity seem implausible. But the fact is that every religion is exclusive at some point. That’s not the real problem. The other thing is, if you’ve heard about Christianity and Jesus, the problem is not that Christianity is too exclusive for you. 

The real rub is that none of us like the fact that it’s saying we are not our own. We generally don’t like the fact that if there is a God and he made the world and us in it, then that means we are ultimately accountable for everything we do. That’s a hard thing for us to accept.

Exclusivity is in everything—not just world religions. Exclusivity is the reason I’m not a Costco member right now. I mean, I’d have to get a membership card for that. It’s exclusive. It’s open to everyone, but you’ve got to get a card first if you want to go inside. (Recently, I heard that they’re changing this for a small fee—but swap the card out for an extra fee on top of your bill. You have to pay to play.)

So the idea of exclusivity is not the objection people have deep down. The rub is that the Christian story ultimately means I am not God. I am not the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. 

That’s our real problem with it. God’s solution is greater than this problem though. He sent his Son to become the solution to our problem of independence and open rebellion against God.

It's also so much grander. The same news that used to be bad and threatning to my autonomous self becomes good news, I am not my own, but belong to God. It's good that I'm not God, because I wasn't so good at playing god anyway. It's good that I'm not my own, because I was driving my life into a ditch anyway. It's good that I belong to God, because I've been the one excluding him from my life all along. Jesus offers himself as the way to bring light when we are lost, truth when we face doubt, and life when we confront death. 

Don’t let you get in the way of coming to him.

Nicholas Davis

Rev. Nicholas Davis is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.

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