Updated: Apr 13, 2020
By Tania Manjula Nallathamby
This year I celebrate a milestone birthday and to commemorate it, I hope to be a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago. The Camino, otherwise referred to as St James Way, is a network of pilgrimages culminating in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in North West Spain. I will be walking the last 100 km with a group of close family and friends.
I look forward to moments of solitude on the route as I walk the Camino at my pace and equally I look forward to sharing the journey with my companions, united footsteps and unhurried conversations.
When I discovered that one of the Lenten studies being offered at my church was based on a movie set on the Camino trail and focusing on a group of individuals and their journey, I decided to go along and participate.
As part of this study one week, we discussed the controversial topic of ‘who can be saved’. It was good to have an honest, open and respectful conversation. Is salvation purely for those who believe in Christ, who said “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)?
For me, one of the marks of a pilgrim on this journey of life is one of constant learning. There are many aspects of my faith which I accept without question, based on my life experience walking and talking with my God and then there are other aspects which I don't quite understand but am content to see dimly at the moment with the hope seeing it revealed in full at some later stage. And the notion of salvation for a multi-faithed world falls into the latter category.
With regards to salvation, there are broadly speaking, three approaches to understanding Christianity and other religious traditions. The first is Exclusivism. Exclusivists hold that salvation is through Christ alone. Only those who hear and respond to the Gospel will be saved. It is through a commitment to Christ that one receives salvation.
The second is Inclusivism. Jesus is the only Saviour yet his saving influence extends beyond the Christian Church. The Holy Spirit moves in all paces, through all cultures and religious beliefs witnessing to the truth of God. Even though salvation through Jesus is not recognised as such in other religious traditions, it is no less real. Salvation through Christ is possible among those who don't even know Him. It is God in Christ who reaches out to the individual in his own personal religious history to save him.
The third approach is Pluralism. This approach follows the thinking that all religions lead to the same God. All world religions are valid and all ways lead to heaven. Pluralists argue that Christians’ beliefs are not absolute and other faiths provide their followers with an equally legitimate path to salvation.
In any Christian community, whether a church, a bible study group or even a family, there will be Christians who identify differently with each of the above three approaches. My personal belief is that Christ through His death and resurrection, bought and brought me into an eternal relationship with God. This inspires me to share His overwhelming and ‘reckless’ love with my fellow pilgrims.
For me, the most meaningful way to do this is by building meaningful connections with people, regardless of their religion, and not by proselytising. To walk alongside them in their pilgrimage. To be connected enough to share their life, their joys and their darkness. To love them in a meaningful way the way I am loved by Him. And to share my faith when someone expresses an interest or need, either through prayer or conversation.
Christ was a radical. He didn't follow social norms. He showed us a counter-cultural way of living. And everything He did was cushioned in the softest of love. This is a good reminder because sometimes we let ‘religion’ come before ‘relationship’.
The recent Christchurch tragedy is still fresh in all our minds. In a serene, prayerful and vulnerable moment, lives were taken without regard and it had everything to do with ‘religion’ and nothing to do with ‘relationship’. But in the middle of that trauma and tragedy, New Zealanders came together. My heart sang when I read about members of biker gangs standing sentry at mosques after the shootings, allowing people to continue to exercise their religious freedom. And when Jummah was broadcast nationally on radio and TV the Friday after the shooting.
We are all His created, regardless of race or creed. Salvation is God’s business. I don't want to diminish God by making Him in my image, when the reverse is true. I can’t make Him fit into what I believe, that’s far too small a framework for Him.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways”, declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
What about you dear reader? If you are a Christian, what are your thoughts about your role in relating to other faiths and sharing your own? If you are of a different faith, how do you feel about the way that Christians have treated you?
Tania Manjula Nallathamby.