With this year’s Resurrection Sunday celebration approaching, I’ve been reflecting on a really good related discussion I had with a friend, around this time of year, about five years ago. What was then a new relationship seemed to be one where we quickly recognized that we liked each other regardless of our differing views on some pretty important topics. I say “really good discussion” because it was an open exchange with both of us genuinely interested in hearing the other’s points of view and wanting to learn from that. Candidly, I have to give my friend more credit than I can take myself, in that regard. Although this “really good discussion” mostly involved the two forbidden topics typically warned against for peaceful relationships … Politics and Religion … as I strongly suspected, this was just our first “really good discussion” of many to come.
One of the results of that conversation was for me to be reminded that, while I was clear in my understanding of my positions on the issues we discussed, I wanted to be able to clearly express my views to others. The question that was raised that confronted me with this most significantly was the question, “Do you believe there’s only one way to Heaven?” Although I think my response to this was adequate, it seemed to me that I should be prepared to offer more than an answer that’s just OK to such an important question. In fact, in 1 Peter 3:15, the Bible compels Christians to do this, saying, “[be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you”.
Expressing the “reason of the hope that is in (me)” is what I wanted to be better prepared to do but, before I delve into that, I should give you my initial answer to that question. My answer is:
I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I, also, believe that every person can have salvation through accepting Christ’s sacrifice for their sin. And, I believe that salvation, through accepting Christ’s sacrifice, is the one and only path to Heaven.
Since my friend didn’t state his position on this question, I won’t presume to give you his answer. I will say his question was accompanied with several related questions and comments that I took into account as I considered how to best express the “reason of the hope that is in (me)”. One related question was, “Do you think Mother Teresa went to Heaven?” and one related comment was, “I make it a daily habit, when considering certain choices, to ask myself, ‘What would Jesus do?'” I’m paraphrasing rather than quoting here but, to me, this combination of questions and comments had certain implications. One was that while my friend had some high regard for Jesus, he didn’t necessarily accept Him as being the only way to Heaven. Another was that “good works”/”being a good person” should get you to Heaven.
So, in order to respond to this and more adequately express the “reason of the hope that is in (me)”, the two questions to answer are:
- Who is Jesus
- Can “good works” alone be a path to Heaven?
In my opinion, one of the best sources addressing Question #1 is the book The Case For Christ, authored by atheist turned Christian Apologist, Lee Strobel. The one-liner I’ll distill from this is that “Jesus was either Who He said He was or He was the greatest fraud in history”. My friend’s “high regard” for Jesus seems incongruent with Him being “the greatest fraud in history”. That pretty much leaves that He must be Who He said He was. The Scripture references on this are numerous but Who He said He was, is God.
With that being the case, Question #2 is easier to address. Jesus, himself, answered it. As recorded in John 14:6, He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Although Scripture – e.g., James 2:20, makes it clear that good works are expected of Christians when it says, “faith without works is dead”, according to Jesus, He alone is the way to Heaven. As to whether or not Mother Teresa went to Heaven, I don’t know. Only God can look on our hearts. If Mother Teresa accepted Jesus’ gracious gift of salvation, she did go to Heaven, where she heard the Lord tell her, “Well done good and faithful servant” and she’s receiving the reward He stored up for her.
So, how then should I have offered a more adequate answer to my friend on this matter? Beyond what I’ve addressed up to now, I think the answer was contained in another comment he made … “God is love”. That’s right! He loves us so much that He sent His Son out of Heaven, to live as a man, to die as horrible a death as can be imagined, to save us from our sin, to overcome death and sin and to return to Heaven saying, “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, (there) ye may be also.”