Whom do you trust with important matters in your life: someone with name recognition whose character you don’t know, or someone not in vogue but whom you know personally?
Two days ago, my wife took her car in to Midas (4055 N. Academy, CS) because of clanking noises in the right rear wheel well. After brief examination, they told her the problem was worn struts, and she would need to replace them, estimated cost at $900, but they could do it that day. After agreeing to this and asking for a ride home, she was gladly ferried there by a Midas employee. A few hours later she called in to see how the repair was progressing. Another big job had come in and taken priority, so they hadn’t started on her car yet. Miffed, she told them to come pick her up so she could take the car somewhere else. Thankfully, she then called me, told me the story (revealing what she would have paid…; now I have a better idea why they named themselves after King Midas — everything he touched turned to gold….), and asked me if I would call a mechanic I know personally (whose shop unfortunately is at the other end of town) and see if he would take her car in for repairs. My friend’s garage is not a big-name franchise – Johnny’s Star Auto Repair – but he is a Syrian friend with a big heart. So he told me to bring it the next day, which we did. Johnny said he’d have it done by the end of the day, if not sooner, but didn’t give me an estimate. Cindy dropped me off at a Bible study group downtown and then drove off to do errands. By the time the study was over, there was a message on my phone to come pick up the car – it was ready. Rather incredulous, I called Johnny and learned that the problem was a loose strut – all that was needed was a tightened bolt. Everything else looked great, he said. “What do I owe you for your time and effort?,” I asked. Nothing, he said. “Come on,” I argued. “Okay,” he said, “I’ll take a hug.” We’re sending a “goodies basket” to their home as a thank you. The car is working great.
A false diagnosis, which we initially accepted based on the naïve assumption that a well-known repair place wouldn’t try to rip off innocent customers, would have cost us dearly. The correct diagnosis, and a solution wrapped in grace, was a godsend.
That got me thinking.
Many people know something is wrong in their spiritual lives, but don’t know where to turn for diagnosis and repair. In the Western world today, there are two options at the top of the list for consideration. One seems favored today in the media: Islam. The other is not in vogue: Christianity.
Islam diagnoses the human condition this way: You have been disobedient to Allah and are doomed to hellfire as an infidel. But repair of this condition is possible, although it will cost you dearly. You can be assured of paradise if you accept the bargain Allah is offering, as found in the Quran, 9:111 –
Allah has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of Allah; they kill, and are killed; that is a promise binding upon Allah in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Koran; and who fulfils his covenant truer than Allah? So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him; that is the mighty triumph.
Allah offers a contract to any human being willing to accept his terms – he will grant paradise to those willing to exchange their “selves and possessions” for that promise. How is this exchange verified? They must be willing to “kill and be killed” as they go to war for Allah against all who refuse to bow before him. There is nothing metaphorical about this contract, as history demonstrates. Millions of Muslims over fourteen centuries have killed and died while pursuing jihad in Allah’s cause, hoping Allah’s promise of remedy for their problem will prove true.
Christianity, on the other hand, diagnoses the human condition this way: You have broken fellowship with God by your sin, and nothing you can do is able to repair the breach. God, however, by bearing the consequences of your sin, can both forgive you justly and welcome you back into eternal fellowship with himself. He does this by becoming a human being (while remaining God – this is the meaning of the Incarnation –, taking the punishment of human sins upon himself in his ignominious crucifixion and death, and granting his resurrection life to all who place their trust in him. God’s repair promise is that He will exchange our sinfulness for Christ’s righteousness – piling our evils upon His Son, and clothing us instead with His Son’s righteousness. The New Testament text that spells this out clearly is found in 2 Cor 5:21, where Paul, speaking of Christ, says:
For our sake he [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
In real life, all of us are broken down and need repair. Which garage are you going to go to? Between Islam and the Gospel, which is able to correctly diagnose your breakdown and offer you the repair you truly need? Islam says: give your all in death and destruction for the cause of Allah, and you will have Paradise. The Gospel says: God in love has given His all for you, in the death of His Son. What do you have to do to benefit from His repairs? Hand yourself over to His tender care and become a follower of the Good Shepherd who has laid down his life for his sheep.
When it comes to auto repair, we are never going back to Midas. Johnny has our trust, because we know he has our interest at heart and can solve our car problems. When it comes to eternal life, I am never going back to a god who calls human beings to kill and be killed as a ticket to eternal life. Instead, I gratefully place my soul in the eternal charge of Him who gave His all for me, and who calls me to give myself away in love for the benefit of others.
How about you?