I read another chapter in Ken Davis’ book, Fully Alive, this one on friendship. I really identified with Ken’s description of having a life full of acquaintances and people of common interest but feeling terribly alone. And, like he experienced, I now have “friends…like-minded people who will join me in my quest; people who will help hold my feet to the fire; friends who will spur me on when I feel discouraged and who will celebrate my achievements with me.”
He shared the story of one man, a Muslim neighbor of his daughter’s, with whom he created a deep friendship. It is a beautiful story which included his walk with his friend as he had to face cancer and eventual death. Near the end of his life, Ken shared that his friend “surrendered to the love of Christ (which gave) the assurance of eternal life.” I have to add that Davis said that at no time had he had specific intentions to “convert” his friend. My sense is that there was a genuine love from Davis and his family that enabled his friend to be open to the touch of God though Jesus.
My life is a story of a love/hate relationship with God and religion. My journal entries are full of commentary and arguments over doctrine and practices of the communities with which I was associated. It started early. I remember a neighborhood friend Linda Stutz whose family was Seventh Day Adventist. I was Catholic and at that time the teaching was that all who were not baptized in the Church were destined to the fires of hell. One day Linda and I compared our bibles only to find they were basically the same. It baffled me to think that Linda and her family would go to hell after they died. The Church had a loophole known as the “baptism of desire”. This was for those people who were good but didn’t know or understand what God expected of them. These were baptized in God’s eyes somehow and would be saved. I felt comforted.
In my young adult years I was part of a fundamentalist community that took in deeply this idea of being select members of Jesus’ saved flock. Their mission was to get their friends and family into the fold before they died. While they were motivated by love, I can tell you from my own experience that proselytizing drives more people away than it attracts.
There were a lot of valleys and mountains, curves, backtracking and lane changing that could describe my spiritual journey. Many of the decisions I made began with my being troubled by Christian teachings. This was true even when told that these teachings were founded on biblical passages.
I do not adhere at all to the Christian teaching that a person has to believe in Jesus in order to go to heaven. The reasons lie in all that I have said above but the strongest influence has been my relationships with people of other religious faiths including Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist as well of people who don’t affiliate with any particular religion. Not only do I refuse to write them off but I refuse to believe in a god who would. If I am wrong, perhaps that is yet to be revealed. Meanwhile, my friends can be comforted by the fact that there is no hidden agenda in me as we love one another.