11th May 2014

Do all roads lead to God?

     Many people believe that the faith journey is like climbing a mountain:  there are many paths to the top, and it does not matter which one you choose. This solves a common difficulty: what right have we to say to people of other faiths that they are on the wrong road, when they are good, intelligent, people who are convinced that their faith is the right way at least for them? However, the illustration suffers from another difficulty: many mountains have paths which do not lead to the top, and it is impossible to know where all the paths lead unless you have a good map or you know people who have walked each path to the top.
     We have all experienced times when we were convinced we are on the right road but found it did not take us where we expected to go. Our intelligence, goodness and faith were not in question; we made an honest mistake and ended up in the wrong place. But could that possibly happen in life’s journey? If people make an honest mistake in choosing their religion, might they end up missing out on God and eternal happiness?
     How could a God of love allow that to happen?
     What does the Bible have to say on the subject?
     First, the Bible is very clear that there is only one way to God. Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except by me.’ (John 14:6.) In our Gospel reading he describes himself as the only gate for the sheep through whom we can come and go in safety, and all others offering salvation were sheep stealers. Peter and John, on trial after Pentecost, told the Jewish leaders, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). It is often remarked that most other religions teach people what they must do to achieve the goal, whereas Jesus taught us that it was his work as the good shepherd laying down his life for the sheep that enables people to realise the goal of life in union with God – all we have to do is to receive it from him and live it with him. When we believe and trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord, as our life-saver and life-manager, we are on the right road – and are walking in company with God himself!
     The Bible is equally clear that the one way to God needs to be searched for. It is not a road we are born on, even in a Christian country. The Jews of Jesus’ day believed in God and observed his commands, but Jesus told them, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” The search, when done honestly and perseveringly, will meet with success – “Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.” St Paul likewise wrote, ‘To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, God will give eternal life.’ He goes on to remind his readers that no-one actually merits eternal life; all need to be rescued from sin and death through Jesus and through faith in him.
     Where does that leave people who have never heard of Jesus? Such as all the godly people in the Old Testament? They believed and trusted in God, and in his forgiveness and promises even if they did not know how exactly he would work. Maybe people in similar positions today are accepted on the same basis. But John’s gospel tells us that when such people hear the good news about Jesus they welcome it – they gladly ‘come into the light’.
     In the end the ‘right road’ is not so much a set of doctrines and practices, a ‘religion’. It is the relationship with Jesus – regardless of whether you know his name – that matters.



1) What is your goal in life?

2) How do know if you are on the right road?