One of the abiding questions that Christ asks to every generation is “Who do men say that I am?” For us who are disciples, however, the more important question is the second question that Jesus asked after the Apostles had told him what people were saying about him. He then asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” This question of course led to Peter’s tremendous profession
of faith “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” If we are true disciples, his profession is ours as well. It seems to me, however, that there are two tendencies in our pluralist popular culture that we need to resist. The first is to think of Christ in a sort of relativistic way, that is, to view him as “my” savior but allow that other people have their saviors as well. Whether it be Buddha or Confucius or some other great religious leader, it all comes down to the same thing as long as a person truly believes. But this way of thinking is about as far from Jesus’ own views as one can get. No one was more dogmatic about faith in Jesus than Jesus himself. He says of himself, “I am the way, the truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The word no one is a strong and inclusive word. By it Jesus means that he is the only savior of all people. People who are honest and sincere about what they believe and who put into practice what they believe certainly can be saved even if they, for one reason or another, do not know of or believe in Christ. But that does not change the fact that they will be saved because of him. The second tendency is to view the salvation Christ brings us as if it consisted in his sharing truth with us. In other words, his salvation is his teaching that we should all love one another. Jesus of course does teach us this, and if the people of the world put that teaching into practice it would certainly be a much better place. But the importance of Christ for our salvation is not found in his teaching no matter how true or essential it is. He did not save the world by teaching us to love on another. He is the savior of the world because, as God’s son, he assumed our flesh and, in that flesh, laid down his life as the atoning sacrifice for our sins and then, in that same flesh, rose from the dead. He saves us not in what he teaches but in what he does, in his dying and rising. This is why we hand our lives over to him. Let us remember, then, that Christ is the only savior of the world, and that he saves us by his sacrificial death. The whole of the scriptures attests to this, and it is certainly what the Apostles believed.