A common criticisms of Christianity is that it is too narrow-minded and exclusive. The idea that there is only one path to God sounds intolerant and exclusionary to all other religions. Why can’t we each find our way to God in our own way? In the beginning we did have perfect unity with God. But our sinful nature and our weakness to temptation are what pull us away. Most religions require salvation to be earned through adherence to a specific set of practices.
Hinduism: Four paths to Moshka
Buddhism: Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path to Nirvana
Islam: Five Pillars of Islam
Judaism: Following the Torah
Because none of us are perfect, there is nothing that guarantees that what we’ve done in this life was enough. God is perfect and sin is what separates us from God. No matter how close we come none of us are perfect, and no amount of good deeds can erase our sin.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.Isaiah 64:6
When we admit our sin and repent it pleases God because he longs to forgive us. Repentance is when we feel or express sincere regret or remorse about our wrongdoing, accompanied by desire and efforts to change for the better.
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.2 Peter 3:9
But our desire for perfection only makes it more difficult to admit our failings. When we successfully follow all of the requirements we grow prideful in our accomplishments. When we we fail to live up to these standards it leads to hopelessness. This does not encourage being honest with ourselves or each other. If we’re unable to admit our failings, how can we repent from them?
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:8-9
This is what makes Christianity stand apart from every other religion. It requires an act of humility, admitting our innate sinful nature. In Christianity, we must see ourselves as we truly are, deeply flawed. God’s law, as presented in the Old Testament or Torah, is meant to show us just how far we fall short.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of GodRomans 3:23
We must confess that we are often willfully disobedient to God’s law. We could never live up to God’s perfection, or be worthy of salvation. When we humble ourselves, it allows God to lift us up. Our weakness points to our need for a savior. This savior is God’s son the prophesied Messiah, sent to offer us redemption and reconciliation. God knew we could never do enough to reach him, so instead he sent Jesus down to us.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed…Isaiah 53:1-12
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8
It is only through Christ’s sacrifice that we are cleansed from our sin and made presentable to God. This was a price Jesus willingly paid out of love for humanity. Through his resurrection he was victorious over sin and death. Through faith in Jesus we too have victory over sin and death. This is why we need Jesus, and why he is the only way to the Father.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 4:16
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”Acts 4:12
This is not an egotistical statement. Jesus alone has paid the price for our sin. If we do not have faith that Jesus was the resurrected Messiah, God we are still held to God’s law and the penalties of our sin.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 6:23
Jesus’s willing sacrifice has already paid the price for sin, all we have to do is believe in this simple truth. Our salvation is not contingent upon what we do, it is what Christ has already done for us. This does not mean we should continue living sinful lives. In gratitude of the sacrifice he has made, we should want to honor him by living according to his teaching and God’s law. This is a reflection of true faith in Jesus Christ.
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?Romans 6:15-16
This is why Jesus is called the narrow gate. All are moving along a spiritual path trying to reach God, but there is only one path that allows us access to our Heavenly Father.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.Matthew 7:13-14
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,1 Timothy 2:5
This does not make Christianity exclusionary, in fact, just the opposite! We don’t have to achieve spiritual perfection or follow a specific set of guidelines in order to earn salvation. This free gift of salvation is available to all who will accept it. It doesn’t matter what religion we previously practiced or how dirty or sinful our lives were before.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8-9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
Christianity demands humility and denies us moral superiority. Through accepting this truth found in Jesus Christ we are able to be honest with ourselves and with God without fear. We no longer have to hide our shame because Christ has washed us clean. He has restored or relationship and opened direct communication with our God through the Hold Spirit. Because he offered us everything, there is nothing he cannot ask of us in return.