I have a friend in the city, and he’s from a Muslim nation. A place, where if born there; it is illegal for you not to be Muslim. This friend of mine, after several sips of his Dunkin Donuts coffee told me this: “I do not believe that Islam is the way to Allah (God).”
This friend of mine is very smart; he’s studying now to attain his PhD in a scientific field. He thinks about things, asks a lot of questions. It’s because of his constant analysis that he came to this above conclusion.
…And so I wondered: if my friend had been raised as a part of a different religious system, would he believe it was the way to God?
I was reading in the Bible the next week with my family and we came across this passage in Colossians, Chapter 2:16-3:10.
The Apostle Paul (who proclaimed the Truth of Jesus from modern day Israel to Turkey, from Albania to Italy) wrote to the church of Colossae saying:
“Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ… Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
“Don’t allow the law to be your savior, Christ is what saves!” Paul seems to be shouting through his words. Our rules have an appearance of wisdom, but by only following the rules, we are still so far from Allah (God).
Paul doesn’t stop writing here though, he continues his letter:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God… Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”
The Apostle Paul and my ex-Muslim friend have a lot in common; they both realize that following the laws of religion do not bring them to Allah (God).
Praying five times a day, fasting during Ramadan, giving alms… all helpful things, but in the end we are just as far from God as we would be without these things. Islam is not the way to Allah.
Resting on the Sabbath, eating Kosher-only food, and believing in the existence of God… all great things, but in the end we are just as far from YHWH as we would be without these things. Judaism is not the way to YHWH.
Going to church, reading our Bible, praying before each meal… all great things, but in the end we are just as far from God as we would be without these things. Following the laws of “Christianity” is not how we get to God.
But Jesus is.
“Since you have been made new with Christ, live like it!” Paul writes in this second part of his letter. The Law does not save; it does not make us clean before God… but Jesus does. And, if we want to be on “team Jesus,” then we have to die to our old sinful ways and live the new life that He has offered.
So I thought about my friend: If he had been raised a Christian… would he still be a Christian? And I think that sadly, the answer depends. The answer depends on if he was raised to follow the Christian "Law" to attain eternal salvation, or if he was raised to follow Jesus as the Savior the world.
I shared these verses with my friend last week. I told him that I agreed, Islam is not the way to Allah. I also confessed that I sadly think that the version of Christianity that is so often portrayed to the outside world may not be the way to Allah (God) either.
We read together these worlds of Paul about how the “Law” does not save us, but how Jesus does. Jesus saves, so let us follow Him as the Savior of the world.