Multifaith cooperation initiatives?

I recently heard about the Tri-Faith Initiative undergoing development and construction in Lincoln, NE. My first thought was “Huh, interesting,” but I really didn’t know what to make of it or what to really think about it. To be honest, I’m still not sure what to think about it.

On the surface, it’s pretty cool to see the three Abrahamic faiths working together, cooperating, promoting understanding of their faiths, etc. However, as Christians, we are not called to “promote understanding of our faith” or to just be “united by Christ’s example, caring for one another, supporting one another and challenging one another to become all that God creates us to be (taken directly from the Christian church description of the Tri-Faith website).” We are called to live radically obedient lives in submission to Christ, working to draw others into a relationship with him.

It reminds me of the large variety of, but essentially the same, popular Jesus memes:

jesus_did-i-stutter

It’s great that they are so popular in that people may be inspired to seek out conversations about Jesus or even dig into the Bible or something to discover more about Christ. However, my problem with them is that they take the second greatest commandment and make it the first. The greatest commandment is to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength’.

In the same way, this initiative may encourage people to seek out Jesus, but it seems the emphasis is more on being cooperative, promoting understanding, being active in social justice, and being “good people”. While these are not necessarily bad things, I do think it promotes the faulty notion that there is more than one legitimate path to heaven. People already think that these faiths worship the same God so it’s not a big deal, but I say if they worship the same God, why the wildly different religions then? Why the different books? Why the different customs? Why the different paths of salvation?

I agree that we should love people, but we should love them enough to get to know them and challenge them in their thinking and actions to seek out Christ – who he really is – and let that transform their lives. We cannot in good conscience sit back while others live life in a futile manner, chasing after the wind and whatever is popular in the world.

When I was in college and part of a campus ministry, I wanted to bring in speakers from other faiths so I could understand those faiths better. I’m not sure I was wise enough at the time to know that a greater understanding of the faith would make it easier for me to present the gospel to people of differing faiths, but I truly wanted to understand the foreign world of people who aren’t Christians. To this day, I still have pretty much no understanding of any faith outside of Christianity.

There is a great opportunity for discussions, debates, and other conversations within this Tri-Faith Initiative, but I have a feeling they won’t really happen. I have a feeling that in our society, it will be more of a case of live and let live. I suppose the best thing that could come of it is people could be willing to check out Christianity for the first time because of this spirit of cooperation and understanding. God will take anything and turn it into a vehicle for salvation. I just hope the Christianity people experience here is an authentic one, a challenging one, one that points people to Christ first and actions later, one that stays true to the message of Christ being the only way to heaven. I hope, but my gut tells me it probably isn’t so – by reading the descriptions of the involved church, I think it also participates in the watered-down, slightly distorted version of modern Christianity. This version being one that proclaims being a good person is enough and that it’s about us and God only wants what is best for us, that we don’t have to suffer or give anything up for it.

The truth is that to be a follower of Christ is to be hated by the world, not accepted. A servant is not greater than his Master, and what the Master suffers the servant will as well. We are not of this world, and if we were, the world would love us as their own. That is really what Christians have to look forward to on this Earth, in this live – to be persecuted, hated, struck down, destroyed, mocked – anything that happened to Jesus can and will happen to some of us. We have to be willing to shoulder that, to accept it, embrace it, and submit our lives to the one who gives us life. We have to be willing to take about the life raft we found in the shipwreck of our lives, to help others find the life raft. Jesus never said our life on Earth would be easy, in fact he promised it wouldn’t be, but when we truly know him, we truly understand how fleeting and temporary our pain is. We are but a vapor or a mist, which is here for a little while and then vanishes. We can’t afford to take our focus off Christ because before we know it, our life will be over and what are we going to find when we walk through death’s door and emerge on the other side? Will we be welcomed into eternity with Christ or will he say “I never knew you”?

Decide this day, friends, whom you will serve. You may not have tomorrow.

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