A good comedian creates laughter within his audience by causing each member of the audience to look in the mirror and to see himself in the quirky actions, eccentric behaviors, contradictory beliefs, and foolish sayings which the comic describes. The audience responds with a spontaneous, healthy laughter because it appreciates knowing that each person has been hit by the jabs and that the behaviors being “roasted” are common behaviors shared by the majority of mankind.
Most of the time, the comedian addresses relatively light subject matter; those behaviors that really don’t mean a lot to anyone or necessarily warrant change. Occasionally, a brave, or perhaps foolish comic will begin to take jabs at the deeper held religious beliefs and traditional practices of a specific audience. That’s when the laughter becomes forced and nervous. The audience members may see the flaw in the mirror. They may have seen it several times before. But they do not want to acknowledge it. And they really do not appreciate the comic making them feel uncomfortable by publicly highlighting a long-held contradictory belief, even though they share the belief with the comedian.
Recently, I heard a standup comic discussing sayings and teachings he had heard many times growing up as a child in a specific denomination. In his words, these were teachings that did not make sense to him as a child, nor could he understand them as an adult. From all indications, he is still a member of that religious group, so he was not taking shots at a denomination with which he had issues.
One saying which he highlighted was, “It doesn’t matter which church you are a part of. We are all going to the same place. We are all on different roads, taking different paths, but all headed in the same direction and to the same destination.”
He said that as a child, this didn’t make sense to him, and that even now as an adult it just doesn’t seem to stand up to reason. He challenged the audience to use that logic on the way home that evening; to just start driving, and not to worry about which direction they were headed, not worry about which road they turned onto, or not worry about whom they followed. He also challenged them to practice that philosophy the next time they planned to travel by flight; to tell the ticket clerk it really didn’t matter which flight they were on, to just give them tickets that had been drawn out of a lottery.
During this segment, the laughter was far less boisterous, and was laced with stress.
Yet, if we meditate upon the comedian’s insight, he is correct in his assessment of that common religious statement.
The Bible never teaches, insinuates, or hints that there are many paths (faiths, churches, movements, etc.) within the Christian religion; each one beginning at the same Christ, and each one meandering in a different direction than the others, but all ending at the same destination. Jesus and the inspired writers of the New Testament spoke of the church (Eph. 1:22, 23), the Way (Acts 24:14), the faith (Jude 3), and the body of Christ (Col. 1:18). They prayed that the church would be one (John 17:20-23) and that there would be no divisions among the brethren (1 Cor. 1:10). Jesus taught that there was a straight and narrow road that leads to life and that there is a wide, crooked road that leads to death; one of each; and each person is on either one or the other. (Mt. 7:13,14).
If it really doesn’t matter what the church teaches about such subjects as the definition and consequences of sin, the way one contacts the blood of Christ, the group a saved person is added to, the oneness of the church, and the organization and worship of the church, why were Acts through Jude written?
If just believing in Jesus is enough, and all other aspects of christianity are irrelevant, do not the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) contain enough information to create saving faith? Yet, Jesus himself told the Apostles, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak of His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me for He will take of Mine and He will disclose it to you.” (John 16:12-14) That which the Spirit heard from Jesus concerning the structure and the teachings of His church is recorded in the books we know as Acts through Jude. Nowhere, in any of these books, can we find even remotely implied that God originated and is pleased with the great division and multiplicity of churches that are found today under the label of “Christianity”.
Sometimes, it takes the innocence of a child to realize and to proclaim, “The emperor has no clothes.” In this case, concerning the statement, “We are all on different paths going to the same place,” from the mouth of a child who grew up to be a stand-up comedian – “The emperor has no clothes.”
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