Disciples’ Way of Prayer, 28th July 2013
Welcome to Worship at Ashmore Uniting Church today. Over the past few weeks I have made some references to the Islamic faith and the current period of Ramadan, which concludes next Wednesday 7th August. A number of people have been using the “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World” which has given us an amount of information about people living in Muslim communities and something of the context that Christians living in these places find themselves. This Prayer Guide is just one way of being more aware of “Our Neighbours” in this global community that is our world.
Ralph Reilly who works in the area of long term mission placement has also given us another way of directing our Christian focus through this period of Ramadan via the reflections of Dave Andrews and his reflections on inter-faith relationships.
As a result of these discussions and reflections by me in our Church services over these past two weeks there has been heightened level of discussion about our Christian faith and its relationship to other faiths. A question asked by one parishioners this week was “Is Christianity the only true faith?” I am thrilled that our Sunday worship has stirred up such fertile discussion. Ralph has responded to that question as follows:-
What a great question! I’m glad you asked – I wish we could have more of a conversation around this because I’d love to hear your opinion too.
I think it is an important question and I think it will become more important as the years go on (if Jesus doesn’t come back). I think that the world is getting smaller (metaphorically) and more faiths and ethnic and cultural backgrounds are rubbing shoulders as never before.
My opinion, and from my experience and reading is that, the short answer is yes, but the long answer is not so simple.
I believe that there is only one true God, that we are his creation, and that Jesus is the only way to salvation / heaven / relationship with God / whatever words you want to use. I think that there is only salvation through God’s grace, through faith in Christ, and I hold that the bible is the inspired word of God.
I hope that is a “yes” to the question that you were asking. Is it?
My reading of bible, however, leads me to understand that God was revealing himself through his creation and by working in people’s lives and nation’s histories well before Jesus was a boy.
I understand that God expects people to be able to know him without having heard about Jesus simply by seeing and experiencing his handiwork and care through creation. I do, however, take seriously the biblical mandate to make Christ known “in season and out of season” as Paul says in 2 Timothy 4.
So I fully expect that there is SOME of God’s truth in the non-Jesus religions that people have developed over the years and centuries, based on what they have seen and experienced of God. So I would say that other faiths are partially true – they contain some truth. But that is NOT saying that they are true because I believe there are essential differences that stop more then one of them being true. More than that, and without accepting the beliefs of other religions, or changing what we believe about Jesus, I believe we can learn about ourselves, and the one true God by learning about other religions.
And while Jesus was very clear about there being one true God, and Paul in the epistles, and Moses and the prophets in the Old Testament were very clear about there being one true religion, when Jesus in the Gospels meets or talks about someone from another religion (Naaman the Syrian Lk4:27, Roman Centurion Mt8:10, Caananite woman Mt15:28, the “Good Samaritan” Lk10:37) they are held up as good examples for us to learn from and follow (!!!).
So I think it is appropriate, in church, to learn about the devotion of Muslims and any other group that we can learn about, while recognising, as Paul does of the Jews in Romans 10:2-3, “I can assure you that they are deeply devoted to God; but their devotion is not based on true knowledge. They have not known the way in which God puts people right with himself, and instead, they have tried to set up their own way; and so they did not submit themselves to God’s way of putting people right.”
I hope we can learn from them, and respect them, and love them (as we are commanded), while still holding firmly to the truths of our Christian faith.
What do you think?
Your brother, Ralph.
After the service today, Ralph and I would like to give people a chance to talk with us about our faith in Jesus Christ and how it sits in relation to other faiths etc. Join us at 10.45 in the Church if you’d like to discuss this together.
May you continue to make time to sit at the feet of Jesus … this week. Rev. Brad Foote