Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Me: You don’t mean the Rumi Forum guys?
SWU: No, this was a woman. You need to meet her.
I was planning to travel to Turkey at the time and the usher was more interested in the fact that Z. was from Turkey than the fact that she was Muslim. Z and I became friends – more because she was Muslim than because she was from Turkey. One day over brunch she said, “I think I want to be baptized.”
“Would you say that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior?” I asked and she said, “Not yet. I will always be Muslim culturally. But I want to live my life like Jesus.”
Herein lies the very interesting issue of personal spiritual identity. I just read a very brief novel (a novela?) by Brian McLaren called The Girl With the Dove Tattoo which is a prelude of sorts to his new book Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, due out – very intentionally – on September 11, 2012. And the tattooed title character – like so many young adults I know – is grappling with what she believes. Her basic identity, however, is Christian – whether she toys with Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, or even atheism.
Can my friend Z. be a Muslim follower of Jesus? Can Islam be her cultural identity while she seeks to follow the way of Jesus?
What do we mean when we say Jesus is the only way to the Father? Does this mean that I pray the Jesus prayer? Does it mean I profess my faith in front of a congregation of Christians? Does it mean I alter my life in a radical way to live my life as Jesus lived his life?
There was a scene in the Gandhi movie where Om Puri plays a Hindu who has killed a Muslim child because Muslims killed his child. When he repents and confesses it to Gandhi, Gandhi tells him to adopt an orphan Muslim child and raise him as a Muslim. This confused me as a Christian (and probably would be confusing to a Hindu person as well.) What if we encouraged people of other faiths to be the most faithful Hindu/Muslim/Buddhist/Sikh/Jew they could possibly be while modeling to them what a faithful Christian looks like in hopes of sharing what love really looks like through Jesus? What if we really loved “the other” in the likeness of Christ who clearly loved (but didn’t overtly preach to) the Syro-Phoenician woman, who saw Jesus as a prophet and healer but was identified as a Canaanite?
This is the stuff of interesting conversation.
A dear friend of mine who grew up Roman Catholic and now considers herself Buddhist (although she is still pretty Catholic whether she likes it or not) often says, “All religions are the same.” I totally disagree with her. Each faith has its own identity and culture. But God uses all faiths – when practiced truthfully – to point to the Truth that is Jesus, in my humble opinion. My identity is Christian. I believe following Jesus is absolutely the best way to live – and none of us does it very well. But sometimes people who self-identify as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh (and no faith) seem to do it better than I.