I've been watching, with interest, the developments in a story concerning major league baseball's Washington Nationals. The team has suspended credentials for chapel leader Jon Moeller. According to a Washington Post article, outfielder Ryan Church asked Moeller if Jews would go to hell because they do not believe in Jesus. Allegedly, the prayer leader nodded in response. As you might imagine, the team is distancing themselves from the encounter, and will likely think twice about allowing religious representatives back into the locker room.
The incident is similar to one recently endured by an acquaintance of mine. This Christian talk show host--who's also a pastor--responded in a similar fashion to a question from a listener about Pope John Paul II's eternal destiny. That comment cost my friend his job, and his experience provides us an opportunity to share a bit of wisdom for anyone eager to share his faith in a public forum.
First: I'm not recommending that you dilute the message one bit. I'd be the first critic of anyone who recommends "watering down" the Gospel message! But the Bible gives us cover on this. You and I don't ever have to set ourselves up as an authority on who gets into heaven, and who doesn't. I believe that Scripture itself militates strongly against that sort of approach! Instead--if someone asks you the question, "So are you saying that Muslims, or Mormons, or whoever can't get to heaven? Only Christians?"--your reply must be like that of Jesus, as He was confronted by satan in the Judean wilderness.
"It is Written." That's what God's Word is there for, when it comes to evangelism! With Christians, it should never be, "Well, I think"...it should be, "The Bible says." In this particular instance, I'd say: "The Bible quotes Jesus as saying that I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by Me." In this way, I'm offering a no-compromise answer to an important question, all the while correctly positioning the Bible as the authority on salvation. I am merely providing access to that information, without personal interpretation. Just as it is not my job as a believer to provide salvation...it is neither my task to defend Scripture...only contend for my faith in it. The Truth remains the same, but I leave the judgment to the eternal Judge.
Our post-Christian culture compels each of us to carefully craft and consider how we will eagerly provide an answer for the hope that lies within us. And we must not needlessly compromise the opportunities the Lord places before us. Truth is...no one can fire the Bible for suggesting that anyone faces a Godless eternity…but they can fire people for their "religious intolerance."