It is a characteristic of our human nature that we often
think that only we have the right view about something and everyone else is
wrong. This happens with all sorts of everyday issues. We form an opinion and
remain unprepared to listen to any alternative views even when it seems obvious
that we may be wrong. But this narrow minded and blinkered view of life can also
be present in our religious thinking as well. We tend to hold on to our
particular religious views of life so strongly that we put little value on what
others believe or in the worst case become openly hostile to their way of
thinking and living.
History is full of the awful effects of such short sightedness. There has
been and continues to be war and violence and hatred between people of different
faiths and indeed within the major faith groupings. So we have seen Christian
fighting Christian and Muslim fighting Muslim as well as fighting each other,
just because each group is adamant that their way is the only way. Salvation, it
seems, is limited to just one very narrow pathway to God. But is this a correct
view of the spiritual life we all share?
All religions are concerned with enabling and encouraging their followers to
come closer to their God through living according to what their faith teaches.
The result is an abundance of pathways to God, from the prayerful and
contemplative life of a solitary monk in the mountains of Tibet, to a life
dedicated to caring for others whatever their circumstances in the streets of a
Latin American city. And this concept is not limited to those who believe in
God. Many other people adopt ways of living where they are enabled and
encouraged to live in a particular way to the benefit of others and themselves.
So is one belief system right and another wrong? Is there only one set of
teachings that form the pathway to God and every other way will come to a dead
end? Well for centuries Christians have acted as though the answer to these
questions was yes! Different doctrines have been supported by different
interpretations of what the Bible says and the “I am right but you are wrong”
mentality has been adopted on every side. Let’s take a look at how this can
In the Bible we can find these words from the gospel of John:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes
to the Father except through me”.
Many Christians have clearly taken the words “No one comes to the Father
except through me” as meaning exactly what they literally say – that the only
pathway to God (the Father) is through faith in Jesus Christ. This then implies
that there are no other valid pathways to God, whether Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or
whatever. Presumably this is one factor that has driven Christians over the
centuries to seek to convert people away from their traditional beliefs to
Christianity because it was seen as the only path to salvation. Can this really
be what loving and compassionate Jesus meant?
Picture for a moment a wonderful mountain towering in front of you with its
peak in the clouds. There are many pathways to the top all starting from
different directions. Some of the pathways are very steep and rugged but are
really the shorter routes to the top. Other pathways take slow meandering routes
back and forth making the climb an easy one but very long. Some pathways take
you by steep rocky precipices others take you past mountain lakes. But whichever
pathway you are able to take it can lead you eventually to the top. Could this
be a perfect picture of the many pathways to God? Faith takes many forms and
leads us from many different directions but true pathways to God all have one
thing in common, they are on the same mountain. And what is this mountain –
surely it is the love we have for others that binds us together and ultimately
brings us closer to God, whatever the pathway we may tread. Is this not true
Should we not begin to see Jesus’ words “No one comes to the Father except
through me” in a different light. What characterises Jesus is his unconditional
love for others and his compassion for those in need. Whatever our faith, or
indeed if we have no faith, it is through building a character of loving
compassion for others that we come to the Father(God) and in no other way.
Our world is a world of immense variety where even with billions of people no
two are completely the same. How we think about life and what pathway of faith
we follow will vary enormously but in seeking to grow spiritually towards the
source of our life and love we all have one thing in common – the need to climb
the mountain of love for others.
It is very common for those who have adopted an opinion
regarding any truth of faith to sit in judgement on others and to say that
they cannot be saved unless their beliefs coincide with their own - a
judgement which the Lord has forbidden, in Matthew 7: 1-2. Yet from much
experience I have been led to know that members of every religion are saved
provided that they have received through a life of love for others remnants of
good and appearances of truth.
Swedenborg in Arcana Caelestia
In any way that men love me, in
that same way they find my love: for many are the paths of men, but they all in
the end come to me.
Krsihna, Bhagavad Gita 4:11
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