“Amazing Grace, How
sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”
John Newton, 1779
What is so different about the Christian message in a crowded world of religions?
Why will Christians sacrifice years, comfort, and even their lives to share this message from a carpenter who lived in an obscure Palestinian town thousands of years ago?
The difference is that Christianity is not just one more world religion. Nor is it merely a powerful message.
It is a relationship with God’s only Son, who became a man so He could be punished for the sins of the people He created — out of no other motive than love.
It is a relationship with Jesus, the Saviour of the world who, according to historical records and the testimonies of hundreds of eyewitnesses, was charged with treason, executed on a Roman cross, rose from the dead, and is alive today. The founders of all the other major world religions died too and are still in their graves.
The heart of Christianity is love not fear, like animism. Eternal life is God’s gift to all who belong to Him; it is not earned by following the pillars of Islam. And unlike the Hindu, who tries to escape the eternal cycle of pain, the Christian says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil. 3.10-11). And again, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
What attests to the Truth in a world of counterfeits? Jesus. Unlike other leaders, He did not claim to have the Truth. He claimed to be the Truth. And going to heaven is not the reward for believing His teachings and obeying His rules. It is the result of loving Him.
Unlike the animist, the Muslim, the Hindu, or even the touch-all-the-bases syncretist, the Christian can do nothing to win favour with God. He cannot earn eternal life. As the saying goes, “You can’t get there from here.”
What the Christian has, who he is, and where he will spend eternity depend entirely on the grace — the unearned favour — of the God who made him. He cannot pay for his sins. God is too holy, and even the least sin is too great to be atoned for by man’s pitiful penances, meaningless meditations, and religious rituals. He can only accept the free gift of forgiveness from the One who paid his debt.
What is the Christian distinctive?
It’s Who we know! There is but one distinctive in Christianity — Christ Himself. And that is the wonderful news we are privileged and commissioned to share with the world.