Do all roads lead to God? “No,” says William Paul Young, “but God is willing to travel any road to find you.”
My friend and I were meeting at the baseball stadium to watch my San Francisco Giants play. Parking costs as much as the ticket, so I decided to take public transportation. From my house there isn’t one bus that takes me directly there, so I had to take one bus and transfer to another, which dropped me off right in front of the ballpark.
Though I believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father, there might well be a number of ways to Jesus. Creation, conscience, culture, crises and even some aspects of creed (religion) are like those buses that lead people to — the “Jesus Bus!” They can serve as vehicles that can bring us to The Vehicle that brings us to God. It’s necessary for devotees of other religions to “transfer” from their former way to The Way in order to get all the way to the Father. How and when they make this transfer, and even what the process of transfer looks like is so far above my pay grade that I can only speculate.
I think there are buses that travel in the general direction of the true God. They won’t take people all the way to where they need to go, but they might deposit them closer than they were when they began.
There are buses that go in the diametrically opposite way of the right way, and as such might make a transfer to the Jesus Bus quite challenging. I wonder if there’s an exception to that rule. Could it be that there are buses (certain religions) that are so obviously treacherous and dangerous that they terrify their passengers into jumping off before it crashes! How cool would it be, if such terrified and bruised passengers accepted someone’s invitation to ride the Jesus Bus! They were frightened all the way onto the right bus going the right way to the right place. In such case, I guess even that wrong bus played a role in “delivering” riders to the Jesus Bus!
Could it be that he cares enough about the billions of Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists to leave clues about himself in their systems of worship? Clark Pinnock wrote:
- “There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence (and it behooves us to concentrate) on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity…”
- “God is not pronouncing all other religions to be totally false, but rather saying that in Christ whatever is true in all other religions is consummated and perfected…”
I’m not saying that he concocted the world’s religions or that all of them are non-stop flights to God. We Christians are better at identifying the errors in other religions (a valid study in itself, and one that others who are better equipped than I have done) than finding common ground with them and even locating “pieces of truth” in them. Like seeds dropped in unexpected fields, I think God’s love messages get incorporated into less than accurate systems.
It seems to me that religion (whether Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, or whatever) can often reflect people’s sincere attempts to find the truth. It’s doubtless also true that at other times religion represents their attempts to evade the truth. People (myself included) can suppress the truth and look holy while we do it! I won’t try to differentiate between the two motives here, but for now, I refer to the sincerest of incentives of those involved in religion of one type or another.
I know that the common evangelical view is that the world’s religions are solely the product of human ingenuity (and often satanic delusion) and only serve to hide, rather than reveal the true God. I can’t argue with that in many cases, but I don’t think this is true in all instances. Couldn’t it also be true that out of the billion Hindus in India some are true God-seekers? Since they’ve only been exposed to their own pantheon of gods, are steeped in the religious culture of their land, worship according to the light they have, isn’t it possible that they’ll somehow find their way onto the Jesus Bus?
I’ll say it again that I’m not claiming that every form of spirituality is a “first bus” to bring every devotee part way to God nor am I claiming that all people involved in those religious communities are genuine God-seekers. The world’s religions are absolutely not all saying the same thing about God or about how to get into relationship with him. To say otherwise is false tolerance and sloppy thinking. Still I contend that most religions contain enough similarities with the truth of Scripture and that some of their adherents are actually looking for God.
If this is true then it means that we should be on the lookout for people whose bus has taken them part way to God. There are probably more people involved in alternative spiritualities than we realize who are “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12). God has undoubtedly been speaking to them before we arrived and it behooves us to take an interest in what he’s been saying to them before we launch our torrent of talk. Knowing that they are travelling in the general direction of The Way, it might well help frame our dialog about what we’ve found in Jesus and help us know the best way to invite them to ride his bus!
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The buses here in San Francisco have their bus line numbers and destinations clearly displayed on the front of each one. In addition, most bus stops are equipped with a list of the stops along that particular route. If that’s not enough, each stop has an automated read out that tells those waiting how long their wait will be, to say nothing of the iPhone app that does the same.
I was in Oaxaca, Mexico a decade or so ago, and trust me when I say that their bus system, by comparison, left quite a bit to be desired, especially if your Spanish is weak and you don’t know the names of the streets. Instead of a scrolling electronic sign on the front, each bus employs a thunder-voiced rider whose job it is to stand on the bottom step in the wide open doorway of the bus and yell to those waiting at each stop where the bus was headed! “DESTINO CALLE ZOCALO!” he screams at the top of his lungs while clutching the handrail and leaning far outside the door. It’s pretty entertaining actually. What their system lacked in automation it made up in amusement!
We Jesus Bus riders have the job of the doorway ambassadors, calling out to people waiting alongside the road at each and every stop: “DESTINO,” I mean, “DESTINATION: GOD! THE RIDE IS FREE. YOUR FARE WAS PAID. COME ABOARD! WELCOME TO THE JESUS BUS!”
For my own Jesus Bus experience see this…