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 There are two Christian beliefs. “Jesus is the only way”, and, “Go and makes disciples of all nations”. They have been tragically misunderstood by Christ followers. Proof? Over the last two weeks, no one in Canada would even ask that question. We’re surrounded by proof. Let's start with over 100 years of residential schools.      

 It’s a big deal to people to hear the words “There is only one way to God, and it’s Jesus.” I was at a party, a birthday party, and I’m introduced to a couple. “This is Tim.” “Hey, how are ya?” “Tim’s a minister in town.”  “Oh, you’re a minister?”   Just so you know, as soon as I’m introduced as the minister, something changes. People take a half step back. It’s like this invisible guard goes up. The cone of silence comes down. Oftentimes I wonder why. But then I remember how Christians can be, and the answer is less mysterious.

So, I’m talking to this couple, and they tell me they have sailed around the world, and consequently have had a lot of contact with Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists. And the woman said “Well, because of that, I believe that God can be found in a lot of different places. I don’t know how Christianity can claim to be it. The only way”.   

She was very humble and gentle about it. It wasn’t a venomous conversation.  The sun was shining, and the birthday cake was ready to be cut. It was all good. But that’s the question, isn’t it? “Why do you say that Jesus is the only way?” 

How we think about this is so important. This is not just some pie-in-the-sky issue that professors of systematic theology talk to their students about in the hallowed halls of seminaries. Wrong thinking about this has left sad and tragic evidence in our history with our native peoples.

It’s actually much bigger than our national history. Colonialism was global, and lasted 500 years. It’s a mentality, a way of thinking, that says “We know better than you. We have the right God, and you have the wrong God, and because of that, we’re going to separate you from what you have.” It happened in India, in Vietnam, all across South America, in South Africa, across the Caribbean, in the United States. You could add to that list. Christian Europeans who thought they knew better.

And here, in this beautiful and blessed country we now call Canada, in the lives of over 150,000 children who grew up without their parents because our leadership believed that there is only one way.    

Here are words you’ve seen before. If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.   1 Corinthians 13

The writer is Paul, a Jesus follower. He’s speaking to people in the marketplace in Athens. People of all kinds of different religions. Do you notice that he doesn’t say “If I have faith enough to move mountains, but do not have Jesus, I am nothing”? He says “but do not have love.” Why? Because, he’s trying to bring people together, not divide them. Of course, for Paul, Jesus is Love, and God is Love, they are one and the same. But he didn’t say to them “You need Jesus”, he said to them “You need love”.

He’s bringing forward something to all these people who are of different faiths, and he’s laying it on the table right in front of them. He knows it's the common thread. It’s Love. We need to live love in our lives. For Jesus, it’s the most important thing. When different people recognize that common thread they suddenly have a common bond. And they realize they have the same God.  

In 1883, Sir Hector Langevin was the Secretary of State for the Canadian Provinces. He said this to Parliament: “In order to educate the children properly we must separate them from their families. Some people may say this is hard, but if we want to civilize them we must do that.”  

They just got it wrong. Horribly wrong. Not because they knew Jesus, but, because they didn’t really know Jesus. On some level, they thought they were bringing God into the lives of the Indigenous people. They didn’t recognize that God was already there. Love was all around. Family love, compassion love, the strong helping the weak. Communion with the earth and with the Spirit. Of course love was there. It was all through not only their spirituality but also in the way they lived.  

The colonialists didn’t see it. God was already there, and they walked right by Him. 

So, here’s one way of looking at this. Some Christians wouldn’t agree with this, but this is what other Christ followers say. Ask the question: Are you my brother, my sister? The way of knowing whether or not you are is found in another question:  Are you living this life of love? We have the definition of God’s love, that all people of all religion see and say “Yes, that is the love of our God.” Patience, kindness, not self-seeking but humble, not proud, never rejoicing in evil. (1 Corinthians 13) Yes, that’s our God.

Are you living this? If the answer is ‘yes’, then, you’re my brother, my sister, my family. We are worshipping the same God. This love surrounds all you do. It may be in a different form, but, it’s the same God. Because, that’s what God is. God is Love.  

For people who aren’t living in that way, for people who live lives commanded instead by greed, and ego, and arrogance, and hatred, then the great prophet Jesus, the founder of the Christian faith, says “Go, and make disciples of them”. They are the ones that need to find another road to walk. They need to be taught to about Love.

You see, that makes sense to people of faith around the world. Jews and Buddhists, Hindi and Indigenous and all the others. Yes, people need to learn to love each other. It’s what we all need. Go and make them into disciples of this Love. Go and teach them that.    

But, for the sake of all that’s Holy, if the love of God is already there, please don’t try to make it speak in exactly the way you speak.

I don’t know why my ancestors, my people, my blood, couldn’t get this right. I have no answers for that.

But for today, our Hope is in knowing that it’s the exact same Love that will make it right again. Now and always. 


Len Logozar 12 months ago

Well said, Tim.

Tim Raeburn-Gibson Tim Raeburn-Gibson 12 months ago

Thanks Len. Tough subject. With God's help we'll find answers together.

Martha Lawrence 12 months ago

Yes, love and faith come in all different sizes and shapes. With God’s help we can respect all.
Well done Tim.

Carolyn Moerschner 12 months ago

Wonderful blog Tim. Years ago I had a wise older friend and we were discussing religions. Her statement was that a silver thread connects all faiths and your call that it is love resonates.

Rowland Fleming 12 months ago

Great message. I grew up in Ireland where many, many mass graves attached to Magdalene laundries were run by the unfortunate single mothers supposedly being cared for by the nuns. Thousands of bodies have been found in these mass graves and a process of Re burial was underwritten by the Irish government. It is another horrible story of the dreadful wrongs committed by so-called God fearing and loving people in the Catholic Church. Canadians will be numbed by the discovery of many, many more unmarked graves attached to the schools. Forgiveness is our most important reaction to the sins that are the legacy of church orders.

Fay Gieg 12 months ago

Just read your blog and a couple of stories came to mind. When we had workers from Mexico at our farm they wanted to go to church. I told them it was not a Catholic church--Their answer-No Problem--Same God!
We have also become friends with a young native Indian guy who told us his mother was in a residential school in Ontario-but had never talked about her time there. Now since all this terrible information has come out, she has begun to tell her family the stories of the horrific treatment she received. I suggested because he is an excellent writer to try and publish her thoughts. He also told us that other family members are beginning to talk about their treatment in these schools but that the stories are so terrible he doesn't know if he can even write about them. All those people that survived the inhumane treatment have been afraid to tell what happened to them for fear of retribution-but hopefully they can get the courage to speak out and tell the world what really happened, then perhaps they will be able to forgive but never forget.

Mary Marshall 12 months ago

Thank you so much Pastor Tim for sharing this important message; we need to be reminded of the atrocities of our ancestors, done in the name of Jesus. This morning on CBC I listened to Denis Sandleman a survivor of the residential schools relay some of the inhume treatments he received during those years. He was cuffed on arrival at school, left to drown in lake, raped, starved abused . I was so moved to tears.
I think we need to take action and reconcile with the indigenous Canadians. Our government refuses to pay the sums owing as per court order. We have not accomplised very many of the calls to action according to truth and reconciliation plan Still today our native people are marginalized, abused
discriminated against and many tribes are without potable water, food and proper housing. What century are we in? Can we help?

Nicola 12 months ago

Tim, you have put it in words, exactly as it is, almost too simple of a message by appearance, but so full of promise and yet so difficult for all of us to enact in our lives on a daily basis: Jesus = Love. Nothing else matters beyond that equation.

Tim Raeburn-Gibson 12 months ago

Thanks to everyone for your comments. As a country, and as Christians, we will work toward healing. Jesus = Love is the first step.

Marilyn Reid 12 months ago

Thank you Tim. It’s so easy to turn away from your faith as a Christian when these atrocities occur in the name of Christ. Love must remain the common denominator amongst us all. Thank you for helping me understand.

Erica Prinn-McCarthy 12 months ago

So beautifully and clearly stated Tim.

Karina 12 months ago

Hi Tim. I wasn't able to to find this message on the First Pres page on Facebook. I would love to share it if possible.

Tim RG 12 months ago

Hi Karina, it's on both the First Pres FB page as well as my own.
Thanks for sharing!

Don Reid 12 months ago

Thank you Reverend!!

Tim Raeburn-Gibson 12 months ago

Hey Don, glad you could read it. Peace and Love

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