Jesus once said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” For us who are trying to follow Jesus’ way, that statement holds a crucial piece of information. Jesus had a specific goal. He wasn’t interested in garnering public accolades. He was trying to change his world and he oriented everything towards that end. He did all he could to instill the same intense focus in his disciples.
In reaction to present and past religious and political systems that have attempted to deny us freedom of conscience and intellectual adulthood it’s common to hear folks adamantly assert that everyone has a right to his or her opinion. Everyone’s opinion is valid for that person, they say, and it merits acceptance by others.
I don’t know anyone who accepts that logic when it’s applied to their brake mechanic’s opinions. The only validity in that case is the one that results in the owner’s car stopping when she pushes the pedal. If such stopping doesn’t occur, there’s going to be a rather pointed confrontation about the offending opinion’s stupidity not to mention the stupidity of the mechanic holding it.
That folks can hold all religious opinions valid seems rooted in the radically privatized understanding of religion that’s popular among us. It’s a common opinion that as long as one is comfortable with one’s own opinion about Jesus, that’s all that matters. Jesus did not share that view.
Jesus believed that his teaching and lifestyle affected everyone. In his mind what folks believed had real consequences. Some beliefs moved the world closer to God’s promise; others hindered such progress. Hence his statement; If you think that simply praising me makes you part of the solution, you are mistaken. It doesn’t.
Our respect for one another must be absolute and reverence for each other’s religious beliefs is crucial to that respect. Such respect, however, doesn’t imply apathy to the search for truth as best we can discover it. We can’t allow an understandable fear of religious intolerance to result in privatized faith. That decision empties Jesus’ life of all meaning.