Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. — Luke the Physician, Acts 4:11-13
The holidays have always been a time of introspection and interior wrestling for me. I recall friends living, dead, and unknown; I remember with gratitude the lessons I learned from them; I choose forgiveness anew for the pain and struggles.
This year seems to be particularly challenging because I’ve recently jumped denominational pews and my daughter is reading “The Last Battle.” But I am glad that Jesus (sometimes called the Rose of Sharon although not necessarily Biblically) walks and talks with His people, and we have the example of Abraham just before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha to teach us we can even ask Him the most challenging questions.
In “The Last Battle,” C. S. Lewis tells a tale of the end of Narnia, a fictional land. Everyone in Narnia was following two main gods, Aslan and Tash. Both gods got horribly mixed up and blended to the point where right was wrong, wrong was right, and there were just average, ho-hum morals in a muddle. Each character was judged based on how what they did showed love to others, not the name of the god they served.
Jesus says, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6) In those words, which are eternally true and unchanging, I find that my only path to eternal happiness is Jesus. This is borne out in Exodus 23:13 and Acts 4:11-13.
I also find that part of Jesus is obedience to His Words (John 14:15, John 15:10, Matthew 25:31-45). If I love Him, I have to listen to what He says and truly honor it.
That said, works-based righteousness is a hoax. You cannot earn or manufacture your way into heaven. It doesn’t matter how many letters you send to prisoners, how many clothing drives you donate to, how many rosaries you pray. You do need to show faith-based works, but Jesus’ righteousness is the only clear key.
Obviously, Christians who violate God’s Word are in danger of an eternally unfavorable end (Matthew 25:31-45). Also, those who have an option to choose Christ as presented by a true Christ follower and fail to do so are in danger of an eternally unfavorable end.
There are two hard places for me. I find those that mock the Gospel tend to pick them up and run with them like an interception of a Roethlisberger pigskin.
The first question is about those that never hear the name of Jesus. What will God do with those? The most honest answer any real Christian can give is “I don’t know. God is God; I’m not. I have to trust both His Word and the depths of His mercy and grace.”
The second is about those who hear about Jesus from someone who claims the name of Jesus but is clearly a devil in disguise. What about the child trying to love Jesus who’s been molested by the priest in the confessional? What about the primitive native who can’t begin to know Jesus because the missionary is in league with slave traders and sex traffickers?
Know that unrepentant sinners have a truly harsh eternal end for themselves, and when children are involved, Jesus suggests suicide by drowning in Matthew 18:6 (well, maybe suggests is too strong a word). And yes, in a way unfathomable to us, we could share heaven with repentant rapists and molesters and murderers.
In the case of those harmed by those who claim the name of Jesus, we again have to give an honest answer. “I don’t know. God is God; I’m not. I have to trust both His Word and the depths of His mercy and grace.”
Finally, we have to guard against elevating the source of our information. C. S. Lewis was both a phenomenal theologian and a gifted creative author. However, you cannot assume a fictional tale spun by a theological giant can be a definitive source of Gospel truth (and Truth).