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When Christ utters those oft-quoted words “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except through Me,” (John 14:6) He follows it with this qualifier: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
Christ’s sacrifice — not just on the cross, but throughout His brief life — was an act of supreme love. He demonstrated what sort of God He represented — the God that feeds, clothes, and educates all of His children, not just the ones who happen to have come under the influence of a particular revelation.
In order to believe the doctrine that Christ was the only way to God for all time I would have to ignore what Christ, Himself, taught about God through word and deed. Christ also gives John 14:6 a context with His other words about Himself. In John 9:4-5, He says:
I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
This makes sense of a seeming paradox. Each Divine Educator is unique in His time, yet part of a continuum of Teachers sent to guide mankind “since the world began” (as Peter puts it). Each one is a “light” for His age.
Before I’d heard of the Baha’i Faith or Baha’u’llah, I knew enough of the teachings of Buddha to understand that some were very similar to Christ’s. That raised questions in my mind; of course, because I’d heard clergymen state unequivocally that Buddha was a false Christ. How could this be, I asked, if the Buddha taught the same things? Jesus, Himself, assures us that we can test the truth of a prophet by looking at his fruits, and that a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. If we were not going to be called on to make the distinction between a true prophet and a false one, why would Christ have taught this lesson in the use of reason?
When I first heard Baha’u’llah’s proposition that God had sent Divine Educators to other peoples beside the Hebrews, I was outraged. I began an in-depth exploration of the scriptures of “other” faiths … and of my own. I found Christ’s message inclusive and rational. He taught that God’s grace was offered to all who heard His word and put it into practice. That word has never been withheld at any time or from any people.
When I read Christ’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7) prayerfully, I found it impossible to believe that the God Christ revealed — that Loving Parent to us all — would condemn billions of souls to remoteness from Him because they lived and died in lands where the names of Moses and Jesus were unknown, but where Krishna and Buddha had lived and taught.
Many centuries before Christ, Krishna taught the Indian peoples that there was one Supreme Spirit who was reached by an “ever living love.” He taught what has been called the Golden Rule: do as you would be done by. Krishna’s claims about His purpose are startlingly similar to Christ’s:
I am the Way and the Master who watches in silence. Thy Friend, and thy Shelter, and thy Abode of Peace. I am the beginning, and the middle, and the end of all things, their Seed of eternity, their Treasure supreme. – Bhagavad Gita 9:16-18.
So are Gautama Buddha’s:
This indeed is the Way — there is no other — for the purification of one’s vision. Follow this Way. I have taught you the Way … making the effort is your affair. – Dhammapada vs. 274-276.
This is the way of thy Lord, leading straight: We have detailed the signs for those who receive admonition. For them will be a home of peace in the presence of their Lord: He will be their friend, because they practised (righteousness). – Qur’an, Surih 6:126-127.
…He hath manifested unto men the Day Stars of His divine guidance … and hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. Whoso recognizeth Them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth unto Their call, hath hearkened unto the voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of Their revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself…. Every one of them is the Way of God that connecteth this world with the realms above…. They are the Manifestations of God amidst men, the evidences of His Truth, and the signs of His glory. — Gleanings pp. 49-50.
All the questions I’d had about “other” faiths were answered when I saw Christ Jesus’ ministry, not as a path to individual salvation alone, but as part of a much broader, all-encompassing Plan for the regeneration of mankind; and realized that Plan included the people taught by Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad and others whose names are lost in the mists of time.
Jesus said (John 10:16), “Other sheep I have that are not of this fold. Them also I must bring, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.”
This was taken, in the churches I attended as a child and young teen, as a prophecy of the “end times”. Next time, I’d like to look at some other “end times” prophecies.
Read the next article in the Jesus Christ series – Jesus Christ: The Names of God
Read the previous article in the Jesus Christ series – Jesus Christ: The Bread of Life