What is the difference between a rare work of art and a replica? Between silver and white gold? Hank Aaron’s 755th home run and his 754th? Ultimately, the value. People pay high dollars for something that is rare, special, and valuable. Some people also pay high dollars for the alternative only to be disappointed when the truth is revealed. They may look the same, but the real thing is much more valuable.
Monday night, as I was driving home from work listening to talk radio, the host – Michael Savage – wanted to discuss religion with his callers. He wanted his callers to defend their religious beliefs while he played the “devil’s advocate.” The first caller was a pious Christian, and I knew after his first statement this was going to be interesting. For some reason, it seems like the voices of Christianity that we hear most often give us a bad reputation, but I was still impressed that the caller survived Savage’s scrutiny.
The whole conversation revolved around John 14:6, where Jesus says to his followers, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In two sentences, the Christian faith is able to reject every other world religion. It is the ultimate trump card for Christians when we defend our faith, but it sounds a little rude. What about the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists…and atheists?
The first Christians in Acts had the same conflict with the Jews, because most of the first Christians were converts from Judaism. The Jewish officials arrested and persecuted these Christ-followers, and it sparked much debate regarding the validity of this new “religion.” In Acts 5, the apostles were on trial before the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of Israel, because they continued to preach about Jesus after his resurrection. Then a Pharisee named Gamaliel speaks up and gives a history lesson about all of the false Messiahs that had preceded Jesus.
His conclusion is simple: “For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39). The difference between Jesus and the false Messiahs is value. One lasted while the others faded away.
Here’s the problem: followers of every religion believe that they have it right. Who is right? What is real? It is like those two creatures in one of Dr. Seuss’ books that walked right into each other, and neither chose to step to the side to let the other pass. They just stood there and stared at each other for years while the world moved on without them.
It all comes down to faith. Faith rarely answers our questions; it just poses more. Some people adopt the “just in case” approach to faith, while some choose the “I want to have all my bases covered” cop-out, so they never really dive into anything.
Is your faith real?