"What's the difference?"
To expound on that mindset, it may sound more like this:
"What's the difference anyway? All religions are the same. They all teach you to be a better person, to be nice to other people, to live life they way they tell you to... and oh, yeah... they all want your money!"
Let's just be honest, in our pluralistic and relativistic society, this mindset and worldview is paramount. You will not be able to have many conversations with everyday people from different walks of life and not run into this position somewhere. It is pervasive. It has so entrenched itself into our culture under the guise of 'tolerance' or 'acceptance' that it is thought to be wrong if you hold to a different viewpoint.
My opinion on this issue is two-fold. The first is philosophical, the second is more practical.
First, I wholeheartedly believe that the only truly intolerant view is ultra-tolerance. What I mean by that is this. By whittling away at the differences and unique characteristics of our different cultures or faiths, we have forced everyone to uniformity. That, by definition is intolerance! Now, if you are so weak in your faith that you can't see anyone who disagrees with you as anything but an enemy that must be attacked, that that is your problem. But to ignore everyone's individual ability to choose a belief system (or not to choose) or to tell them that they can not express their belief system because someone else might not agree with it, is just as intolerant.
Second, and this is where the rubber meets the road for followers of Christ. If we have brought our faith to a point where it seems to be equal to everything else in our culture, that we as the messengers of God's love and compassion, have failed in our mission. To borrow from the Wendy's ad campaign... "Where's the fruit?"
The early church had nothing to depend on to carry their message of love, compassion, forgiveness, salvation, and community except themselves. They did not have printed ad campaigns, movie trailers, websites, or any of the major marketing tools that we see in use today. And yet, in one generation they were able to carry the Gospel of Christ from one end of the known world to the other.
Because, no one had to ask them where the fruit was!!! They lived out of the love of Christ, they were moved by the Spirit of God, and they impacted their community wherever they went. That is the real fruit of the Gospel. It's a life that is lived in such a way that the power, love, compassion, and salvation that comes in Jesus Christ alone can not be denied.
One final thought about fruit is this, there are a few tests that any good fruit must pass if we are going to want to eat it:
1. Looks - Does it look good? If it looks rotten or bruised we're not going to want to even pick it up
2. Smell - What kind of aroma does it have. What kind of impression does it leave behind? Even if it looks good, but we can't get passed the less than obvious stench, we're still not going to taste it.
3. Taste - (This is where we really drop the ball) How does it taste? Even if I think the look is ok, and it doesn't smell too bad, if I bite into it and it leaves a less than desirable after-taste in my mouth, do you really expect me to try it again?
Finally, to express this another way:
A = Life with Christ
B = Life without Christ
If, A = B, then Christ is worth nothing
If, A < B, then Christ is a negative
If, A > B, then Christ is a positive
Only when we can express "A > B" with our very lives, will we see the uncontainable, unstoppable, unequaled gospel of the New Testament active today.
- Just a thought.