Throughout the midwestern United States (and perhaps elsewhere in the world), it is common to refer to the presence of only two seasons: Winter and Construction. In the spring, as the ground (and asphalt) thaws, orange barrels and construction cones appear in the urban jungle (and on the highways). Sometimes, they “bloom” even before their natural counterparts – the tulips, daisies, and roses – start to show their colors and dissipate the gray of winter.
Whether or not this is true everywhere (and, it certainly seems to be), construction sometimes overtakes the mid-sized city that I live in during the summer, and getting from point A to point B is pretty difficult. There is sometimes only one way (at least, to those who don’t own a helicopter, I guess) to drive from one part of town to another.
Jesus made it clear that He was the only path to salvation, for those who have first chosen to rebel against God and make bad choices – whether great or small – in their lives. And, for the record, that includes all of us, as outlined in Romans 3:23:
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 3:21-23 NASB
Along the way, Jesus statements were substantiated by God (the Father) through miracles, fulfilled prophecy, and God raising Jesus from the dead. After that, centuries of history and millions of followers of Jesus continue to confirm the truth of Jesus’ message. (Yes, some who claim to follow Jesus – or even who do follow Him – aren’t the best example of what He taught. However, I think that most will find that going back to the teachings of Jesus, and gauging the effectiveness of His message proportionately to how well individual Christians are following those teachings, shows a pretty clear correlation.)
However, when the singular path to salvation is debated, it seems that a popular red herring (or occasionally, a sincere investigation) is the question, “What about those who have never heard about Jesus?” At the risk of over-simplification (although clarity and simplicity aren’t inherently bad in an answer), it seems that there are three main aspects to the answer:
- Everyone who has the mental faculties to make sound decisions has enough evidence to understand something about God, and to make a choice whether to seek Him or reject Him.
- The qualification for that first statement (i.e., the exclusion of culpability for infants and certain adults with cognitive disabilities) is kind of a complex topic, and could be discussed separately. However, note that many people in these groups innately demonstrate qualities that God favors, unencumbered by the baggage and sin that grips the rest of us.
- Romans 1:18-20 reminds us that God’s attributes are visible, even without a formal message. Despite attempts to try and fit what we can observe of the universe into another framework, God has directly revealed that portions of His nature can be found through observation.
- Jesus promised that those who seek would find (see Matthew 7:7-8). This statement certainly occurred in a larger context, but does not seem to be particularly constrained. Those who sincerely wish to find out the truth about God are regularly rewarded with corresponding knowledge.
- Those who know the truth about Jesus must share it with those who do not.
- This was Jesus’ parting command to His disciples, as recorded in Matthew 28:19-20. A follower of Jesus doesn’t have to evaluate whether he or she has a “gift” or “calling” to tell others about Him. While some individuals seem to be better able to explain this topic to others in an understandable way, all Christians are expected to share this good news, and cultivate Christ-likeness in other disciples.
- Paul understood that it was worth great effort, even if not everyone listened or made the right choice (see 1 Corinthians 9:22). He was willing to go to great lengths, at the expense of his own comfort and preferences, to get the word out to many others.
- However, the point that I’d like to visit further is this: If a human being is thinking enough to ask this question, it is probably more important for him or her to answer something much more imminent: What will you do with the message of Jesus?
Let’s take a further look at what Jesus said about our personal responsibility to make a choice, in the second part of this article.