Summary: An explanation as to what it is that makes Christianity unique? How is Christianity different to other religions?
This week I read an article in National Geographic about the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert in Africa.
Christian missionaries first went to Africa 200 years ago. One of the groups they sought to "convert" there were these bushmen of the Kalahari desert. However, this article pointed out that the bushmen of the Denui village in particular, consistently refused to become Christians. Instead they have maintained their traditional animistic religion. The reporter described what he saw …
“At night in the village there is often dancing around the fire, and sometimes this develops into a trance dance, one of the principal elements of Bushman spirituality. As the women and children sit around the fire clapping, the men shuffle around the blaze, pounding their feet into the dust, their flanks trembling under leather chaps. Little by little the rhythm of the clapping and the wordless chanting picks up. The ceremony, called the giraffe dance, is led by an old man, the resident shaman, who wears an ostrich plume in his beaded headband. As he circles the fire, he eventually falls into a trance. Within this altered state of consciousness, the Bushmen believe, they can cure the sick and communicate with dead or absent relatives.”
The village leader explained, "We are traditionalists here. We are not Christians. But we can talk to whoever the Christians talk to. It is all the same God; there are just different ways of talking to him."
(Source: National Geographic, Feb 2001; http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-5840731_ITM)
Is he right? Are all religions the same? If not, then how is Christianity different to other religions?
1. GOD PURSES YOU NOT VICE VERSA
"Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, `Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:5-10)
The one thing that makes Christianity stand out from every other religion in the world is this – It’s God who seeks you not vice versa. All other religions are a search for God, but not Christianity. Our God is a God who pursues us. God could have required that we struggle all our lives to search for him; to hunt him down; to discover him – but he didn’t. God could have sent an angel to find us – his lost sheep – his lost coin – but he didn’t. Our God came to earth himself.
In that story about the lost sheep, God is the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one. In other words, the Divine Shepherd doesn’t leave you like a lost sheep abandoned, bleating and stumbling to find your way home. He put his own life on the line to search you out! In the story of the lost coin, God is like the woman who turns her whole house upside down to find one lost coin. That’s how incredibly valuable you are to God. God is turning his world upside down in order to find you! He doesn’t give up on you – you are his treasured possession.
The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6b NIV).
So Christianity is essentially a rescue mission.
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10 NIV).
Friends, all other religions are based on the idea that you are on a quest to find life; a struggle to find Nirvana; a battle for enlightenment. But not the Christian faith. God wants you to stop struggling to find life – to simply stop running, to turn around towards him to simply take salvation from him as a free gift to you. Jesus said …
I have come that they might have life (1 John 10:10 NIV).
2. GOD ASSURED NOT SELF ASSURED
And understanding this principle can zoom you to a whole new level of living. It’s because God pursues you that you can be absolutely certain that you are saved and headed for heaven. Your salvation is not dependent on your struggle to pursue God by being good and holy. It is dependent on what Jesus did on the cross on your behalf.