You’ve heard it before: “All religions are basically the same,” “all roads lead to the same place,” etc. If you ask a proponent of these thoughts to explain more or point out the similarities that all religions share, they will likely tell you that all religions require that you are basically a good person.
At surface level, this may seem like an interesting, egalitarian point of view. Indeed, in our culture, the inclusiveness of this perspective will no doubt gain a person brownie points. At first glance, there are similarities across most religions. In Hinduism, you must try to be a good person in order to earn good karma. In Buddhism and Shintoism, one must be a good person so as to bring honor to one’s ancestors and please the gods. And then in Islam, one must please “Allah” by living a pure life.
In all of these religions, the idea of being a “good person” keeps coming up. What is a good person? How is “good” defined?
Let’s look at this idea of “good.” This idea of being a good person is pretty consistent across religions, so we better make sure we get it right. If we think of ourselves as good, why do we think so? How do we justify ourselves? Do we get to define “good,” or is it defined for us? Let’s say we define what good is. Can anyone honestly say that we have even kept our own moral code? Have you ever said words that you later regretted? Have you ever said to yourself, “I should’ve done that better”? Or, in the end, would we be forced to admit that we have broken even our own moral code? Let’s be honest. We are unable to keep our own moral code. So if we are unable to keep our own moral code, how could we possibly keep a higher moral code taught by a religion? And if we are unable to keep the higher moral code required of us, what hope have we?
You may have noticed that in the list of world religions, I did not include Christianity. At first, this may seem odd; after all, Christianity does not define a good person by obedience to their own self-made and imperfect moral code, but rather requires perfect obedience to God’s perfect moral code. You might say that, if you are being honest, Christianity leaves you even more hopeless than all the other world religions.
Thankfully, this is not the case. The difference in Christianity is that the perfection required is not your perfection. Christianity is based on the perfection of Jesus Christ. It is based on the fact that Jesus Christ came and, being fully God and fully man, lived, not just a “good,” but a perfect life (as only the perfect God can)–and then He died and rose again three days later, taking the punishment for our imperfect obedience to God’s perfect code, and thus satisfying the requirement for perfection on our behalf. This allows us to honestly confess our shortcomings and lack of perfect adhesion to God’s perfect moral code and through faith claim Christ’s perfection and “goodness” as our own.
This does not mean that Christians do not need to even try to be obedient to God’s law. In truth, we cannot be perfectly obedient. We need Christ. However, because Christ did save us, we can now show our thankfulness by continuing to work to be obedient to Christ. For a Christian, our good works are the response to salvation, not the cause of it.
In conclusion, Christianity is the only religion that is honest about the state of humanity; it is the only religion that addresses the problem of sin (or lack of ability to follow any moral code) that is so ingrained in all of us.
So why is it that so many people equate Christianity with all the other world religions when Christianity is the only religion to provide us with a Savior who saves us from our imperfect ability to follow God’s law? I propose an answer of multiple parts. When we go to church, quite often all we see is a people who look quite outwardly good, a people who are not honest with each other about their own need for the Savior. And we hear all too often sermons that encourage us to be “good” people but do not tell us the Good News that allows us to be good people. And the biggest reason I believe the world confuses Christianity with all the other religions is because we are too busy pointing out the shortcomings of everyone around us to tell people of the One who can save them from their inability to perfectly follow God’s law.