A little more than a half century ago, a conference on comparative religions was held at Cambridge University. Scholars, theologians and clergy-types had come from around the world to explore various religious ideas.
One of the primary topics discussed was, “What belief or doctrine is unique to the Christian faith?” The scholars compared and contrasted the different religions, batting around the distinguishing marks of each.
It was determined that in actuality, many of the things that Christians believe are not uncommon to other religions. Most religions have moral laws and ethical codes. Most have some kind of “plan of salvation” whereby the believer seeks to settle his eternal destiny. Most relate to the supernatural, and would suggest that their “god” is the one true supernatural being (or in the case of some religions, that the millions of gods they worship are the real deal). There are even some religions that have stories of incarnation and resurrection.
C.S. Lewis happened into the room during the discussion, and someone told him that they were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among the world religions. Lewis thought only for a moment.
“That’s easy,” he said. “It’s grace.”
After some discussion and debate, those at the conference agreed. Christianity is the only religion that suggests that God’s love is offered to us for free, no strings attached, and that his mercy is available to everyone, even the most “undeserving.”
We are all sinners, “yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.” (Romans 3:24, NLT)
That sums up the message of Christianity so well. It is the gospel–the good news–and it very well may be the absolute best news we’ll ever hear in our entire lives, even if it is often our best kept secret. How many in our world think that’s what our message is about? If asked what is unique about our brand of “religion” what would they say? Do they see us as just another religion of rules and laws and moral codes, or one centered on a gospel of mercy and grace, where the God of the universe took on flesh and died in our stead, motivated by his love for us.
Moreover, can they see from the lives that we live as Christ-followers that we have been emancipated by that grace and captivated by God’s love for us? Or, are we just another religion to them?
May each of us live in and by the grace of God this week in such a way that the world would know the uniqueness of our gospel, and would yearn to know our gracious Lord. I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday.