I’m a Kansas City Royals baseball fan which means I have watched a lot of bad baseball for the past 25 years. Like many of my fellow KC seam-heads, I thoroughly enjoyed their return to relevance in 2014-17. What made the Royals’ championship in 2015 especially satisfying was their emphasis on tried and true baseball principles — speed and defense — combined with exploiting a facet of the game undervalued by the market: an outstanding bullpen. The Royals reminded an industry dominated by saber-metrics that there are multiple ways to reach the same goal.
As I have discussed in previous posts, hopeful people look forward to a better future and they believe how they live will help them obtain it. The next key characteristic of the hopeful is their recognition that not all roads to this better future will look the same. In fact, those who reach the same goal — like winning baseball’s world championship — may do so in radically different ways.
The Bible teaches no two roads to heaven look the same, but please don’t mistake this for religious pluralism. A pluralist believes all religions essentially teach the same things and aspire to the same goals. Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, etc. all climb the same mountain albeit by different paths.
Pluralism sounds nice, but it’s not true. Jesus makes it clear no one will reach heaven without going through Him. Only the one with faith in Him, who obeys His commands, who is born into His kingdom, who models his or her life after the Lord will spend eternity with God. Following Jesus excludes all others such as Mohammed, Buddha, or the Dalai Lama.
That being said, when one compares two paths to heaven, one will see real differences. As an example, consider the men and women highlighted by the author of Hebrews.
We often describe Hebrews 11 as “the chapter of faith,” but it is also the chapter of hope. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for…” Abraham “looked for a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God.” He was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar “concluding that God was able to raise him up.” Hope and faith work hand in hand.
In this chapter of hopeful people, we see lives which took remarkably different courses to heaven. Noah’s life looked much different in comparison to Abraham or Moses. Rahab was a prostitute before she was delivered from Jericho’s destruction. Jephthah was an illegitimate child. All of these, along with the others mentioned in Hebrews 11, shared one faith and one hope while leading very different lives.
Hopeful people realize that not all paths to heaven will look the same. Some die young while others live many years. Some enter heaven after waging life-long battles with depression and anxiety while others constantly seek freedom from the chains of addiction. And regardless of what challenges you face, I submit to you that you can find someone in the Bible who experienced something akin, that “through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures [you can find] hope.”