A few years ago, I received an email blast addressing the issue of religious plurality fashionable at that time and a nearly foregone conclusion these days. I thought it worthy of resurrecting and passing along especially in light of the ever expanding influence of Islam today. It is based on 2 Corinthians 11: 3-4, "But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully."
The message from James McCutchan, whom I do not know, read:
"Brother, I'm not interested in any of your divisive doctrinal talk. All I care about is knowing that a person loves Jesus. If someone tells me that, no matter what church he goes to, he's my brother in Christ!" It didn't seem like the right time or place to get into an argument with this individual. Nevertheless, I felt compelled at least to get a question in before the conversation ended. "When you talk with someone who tells you he loves Jesus, do you ever ask that person, 'Jesus who?"'
After quick thought the elderly gentleman let me know that he would never ask such a question. "It wouldn't be loving."
Whenever I visit friends in Pennsylvania, there is a man whom I make it a point to see. He is a joy to be with, one of the friendliest men I know. Though a committed Muslim, he regards himself as an ecumenist. He's proud of the fact that he shares some of the beliefs of both Jews and Christians.
Occasionally he attends a Presbyterian church with my friends and truly enjoys the experience and their fellowship. Once in a restaurant he was expressing to me and our Christian friends his love for Jesus. He ended his proclamation with these words: "If I could tear away my flesh so that all of you could see deep into my heart, you would know how much I love Jesus." The emotions that filled his every word were stunning; it's uncommon to hear such a devout declaration, even in Christian circles.
Getting back to my boysenberry pie, I felt good about my friend's expression of love when a nagging thought hit me: Jesus who? A brief mental skirmish took place over whether or not to ask such a question. My words, however, came out before my mind had settled the issue. "Tell me about the Jesus you love." My Muslim friend didn't hesitate: "He's the same one you love." Before I got "doctrinal" with my friend, I thought I should try to show him why it was important to make sure we were talking about the same Jesus.
I used his neighbor, who is a great friend to both of us, as an example. He and I really love the guy. After agreeing on our mutual feelings, I began to give a description of our common friend's physical attributes: "He's 5'6"; he's completely bald; he weighs 320 pounds; he wears a ring in his left nostril." Actually, I didn't get quite that far before objections were made.
"Wait a minute... he's easily over 6'4", I wish I had all his hair, and he's the thinnest man I know!" My friend added that it was obvious that we weren't talking about the same person. "Does it matter?" I asked. He gave me an incredulous look. "Of course it does! I don't have a neighbor fitting your description. You may know someone else like that, but it's not my good friend and neighbor."
I pointed out that if I truly believed the description I'd just given, then we couldn't possibly be friends with the same person. He agreed.
The Muslims' Jesus?
What followed was my description of the Jesus I knew. "He was crucified and died on the cross for my sins. Did the Jesus you know do that?"
"No, Allah took him to heaven before the crucifixion. Judas died on the cross."
"The Jesus I know is God himself, who became a man. Is that your Jesus?"
He shook his head. "No, Allah alone is God. Jesus was a great prophet, but just a man." The discussion went on to many other characteristics the Bible ascribes to Jesus. In almost every case, my Muslim friend had a different perspective. Though he remained convinced that he held the correct view, the fact that our contradictory convictions couldn't be reconciled seemed to dampen his zeal for proclaiming his love for Jesus.
Need for Genuine Relationship with the True Jesus
Some may see my questioning as unloving – as proof of the divisiveness of arguing over doctrines. I see it as trying to clear the way for my friend to have a genuine relationship with the only true Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ – not someone he or other men have wittingly or unwittingly imagined or devised.
Quite simply, doctrines are teachings. They are either true or false. A true doctrine cannot be divisive in a harmful way; that characteristic applies only to false teachings. "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Rom 16:17: also Rom2:8-9). Jesus, who is the Truth, can only be known in truth and by those who seek the truth (Jn 14:6;18:37; 2 Thes 2: 13; Dt 4:29). Christ himself caused division (Mt 10:35; Jn 7:35: 9:16;10:19), division between truth and error (Lk 12:51).
A Pivotal Question
"Jesus who?" is a pivotal question for every believer in Christ. We should first of all ask it of ourselves, testing our own beliefs about Jesus (2 Cor 13:5;1 Thes 5:21). Misunderstandings about Him inevitably become obstructions in our relationship with Him. The question also may he vital in our fellowshipping with those who claim to be Christian.
Posted on Tue, December 23, 2014
by Joe Flatt filed under