Sympathy for Christians

Last week, I joked that now I know what I want on my tombstone, but I was actually kind of serious. I heard a quote that encapsulates so much of the angst I’ve had about being a Christian. Let me back up…

Last Thursday I watched an amazing video with some girls from my church. It was by Timothy Keller. You may have I heard of him, I guess he’s becoming kind of a big deal. The video series we’re watching is called, “The Reason for God.” It’s a six part series that involves Tim sitting with a group of non-Christians and addressing their questions about Christianity. If you want to check out the first video, called, “Isn’t the Bible a Myth?” go here. I highly recommend you check it out, he has such a calm demeanor, it’s very refreshing to watch. I just wanna go have ice cream with the guy like I would with my grandpa when I was a youngster. Anyway, the video that really got me, was the second video of the series, the session was entitled, “How Can You Say There’s Only One Way to God?” It’s not available through YouTube or I would post it. I’m not kidding you when I say that it actually brought tears to my eyes. At the end of the video Tim gives a sincere plea to all non-believers. After a full length discussion about Christians believing there’s only one way to God, here’s what he says:

“Christians are actually in this position where if we believe what Jesus said then we have to believe it is a superior way to go. These are claims that the other religions don’t make, that the founders don’t make… we can’t just sit there and say this is one nice way along with the others- it is impossible by the nature of the claims. And actually I am not kidding when I say please be sympathetic, because we live in a pluralistic society where the idea that ‘Jesus is the only way’ looks very intolerant. But from the inside when you actually look at him and if you get convinced by what he said- it is a position we have to go to. We don’t go there because we just like to be right, we go there because we are trying to be true to the one who impresses us so much, as being who he said he was.”

Tim Keller

Wow. Eloquently and graciously stated. I feel this way and I wonder how many other Christians feel this way. I truly wish that I wasn’t seen as close-minded or “intolerant.” It’s just not cool in this day and age. It sucks to feel misunderstood. The irony is, however, that Christianity is incredibly OPEN. That’s why Jesus was so radical back in his day. Jewish people were waiting for a savior for themselves, but when Jesus came, he basically said, ‘Yeah I’m here for you, but guess what? I’m also here to help that prostitute down the street and people who are not Jewish, so ‘how bout them apples?’ (Ok, I feel nervous about the fact that I kind of just quoted Jesus… he didn’t say those exact words, just for the record. But you get my point.) Christians seem so self-righteous and some are, I’m sure, but REAL Christians are actually terribly humbled about their need for a savior. We don’t feel any kind of superiority because we’re Christian, I feel lucky but not superior. We recognize that he came for EVERYONE, not just us.

It may not be popular to believe there’s only one way to God, but what am I supposed to do? Deny my savior, the one who has captivated my heart and convinced my mind of his truth? If you’ve read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John you know what I’m talking about. The guy was amazing. Tim reminds us, other religions have prophets who point the way to God. Christianity is the only religion in which God came down to us, in the form of a man (Jesus) and says, there’s nothing you can do to earn God’s love or salvation. Unlike other religions that require effort, we all are welcome to it, just by accepting it. So, you can see why it’s ironic to me that Christianity is seen as exclusionary when obviously Jesus came down to Earth with open arms. There certainly are Christian people who are close-minded and exclusive, but that is NOT God’s plan for Christians. It’s too bad that often people think that Christians represent God’s will. Christians are people. Very selfish. Very flawed. And sometimes very stupid (even Jesus describes us as sheep, in case you haven’t noticed sheep are not smart… at all.) I’m trying to not be any one of those things. I am grateful to have found a role model in Timothy Keller. A bold Christian who speaks with honesty, compassion, intelligence, and humility. I can never fully represent God, but I can try to despite my imperfection. All I can really do is follow the ways of my savior as best as I can.

So, if I die… or when I die rather, I would like these words on my tombstone:

HERE LIES JACLYN LEIGH SNYDER. LOVING WIFE AND MOTHER WHO NEVER STOPPED BEING TRUE TO THE ONE WHOM IMPRESSED HER SO MUCH. LET HER NOW BE WITH HIM. IN JESUS CHRIST, AMEN.

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13 thoughts on “Sympathy for Christians

  1. Well said! And Keller’s book “The Reason for God” is a wonderful one.

    But you’re right, it’s a tough dilemma, remaining faithful to Christ and his witness while living in a pluralistic society that often rejects Christ’s own exclusive claims. (Pluralists so often like to overlook Christ’s own words, sadly.)

    To me, this issue always comes down to basic logic: Can all of the divergent, mutually exclusive “Ways to God” or “Paths to heaven/the divine/etc.” be correct? Well, no, of course not. That’s not a judgment on other people; it’s a simple statement of what makes sense. A square can’t be a circle, red can’t be blue, etc. Yet somehow, when it comes to religious belief, all things are possible. Monotheism is then somehow equatable to polytheism and pantheism, and Christ is no different (or should be no different, they’d say) from Krishna or Buddha, etc. It’s all illogical, but somehow believable for so many people today.

    Anyway, I think Rev. Keller handles this very thorny topic well. He’s a great thinker for our age.

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  2. Jaclyn,
    I love this post! (I love all your posts!!) I think you have cleared up a major misperception of Christians and Christianity here, we/it are/is the most inclusive religion, no wait it’s not a religion, rather, faith out there. Jesus IS available to EVERYONE!! We cannot do anything except admit we can do nothing and receive the grace and peace of YAHWEH. But that moment of admitting we are powerless, to me, is strangely painful, yet freeing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!! Love you! CS

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  3. Hey Jaclyn, great post! This part is ringing in my ears:It may not be popular to believe there’s only one way to God, but what am I supposed to do? Deny my savior, the one who has captivated my heart and convinced my mind of his truth?
    I think that we, (Christians or maybe just me) can get caught up with trying to fit into this world and that’s when we start trying to figure out other ways to state this truth that Jesus is the only way. I’ve definitely had those moments where I have thought to myself, “Ok, how do I share Jesus’ love with this person without sounding like an extremist?” I really liked the message on Sunday because the visiting pastor was saying just that. Jesus truth is extreme but with the Holy Spirit it is also so very tender and it brings such freedom.
    Thanks for your post on this!
    -S

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