“18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
This is one of those verses that cause us to lose friends and family. Christ claims of exclusivity as the only way to heaven are divisive, just like He said they would be in Matthew 10:35 and Luke 12:53. He says he’s not here to bring peace but a sword. What’s that all about?
Go figure, it’s disruptive. But let’s shine some light on the issue. 1 Christ isn’t the only one to claim exclusivity. Does Judaism, Islam, Hindu, or Buddhist claim to be a way to God? No, they claim to be the way. All religions, if truly followed, call in us to make a choice. 2 Christ is the only one who offers salvation through God, not works. Think about it. Do we ever think we can be perfect in an entire life because perfect is what we need to be too get into God’s presence. Everything else is a hamster wheel, chasing after something we can’t do. 3 In our pride we don’t want to submit to God, even if it means submitting to a power that created the universe with a word and can take us out in a nanosecond, loves us more than we love ourselves, is wiser and has better plans for us than we do, etc. I hate to submit our lose to anything/anyone, but I couldn’t get past this reality logically. I submit to God, the highest power, the ultimate power. 4) Creating our own religion from bits and pieces of all religions is both arrogant and wrong. Arrogant because in our pride we think we know better than Christ, Muhammad, Buddha, Abraham, etc. Seriously, have you studied God that well to make that call? Wrong because our designer religions demand nothing of us, but conveniently conform to our life and worldview.
It’s pretty simple for me — God so loved the world He sent his only son Matthew 3:16 Christ died for our sins so we can be perfect in front of God. Nothing else is close to that. Following Christ and living the life He calls us to is incredibly difficult. The most difficult life to live, but even if Christ isn’t true, the best life to live.
Unfortunately, many people condemn themselves to a life separate from God because they only put cursory time into exploring who Christ is, who God really is. A lot of us sat through church where God was quiet and stern, and smelled like really old and stale something. God though is really, really cool, really, really powerful, really, really love. Annie Dillard in Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters says “it is madness to wear ladies straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. And ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares, they should lash us to the pews.”
That’s the God I know, full of joy, perfect in everything, the most wild of rides (and I’ve known some wild ones). The sword is that we have to choose Him or we lose Him. Choose wisely lest you choose poorly. Give it the time that you deserve, that your eternity deserves.