What Uzzah can teach us about religious exclusivism

One of the most important mindsets we can cultivate as Christians is the ability to see the full picture. The world loves to highlight some little part of what the Bible teaches and shout, “Hey, this is wrong and ugly!” Sometimes it even looks like they’re right, but that’s because we aren’t seeing the whole picture. If I tell you that a man hit a little kid, that sounds cruel and wicked–unless you know the child was choking and the man was pounding her back to clear an airway. It is easy to misunderstand a little snippet of a larger scene, and it is especially easy to do that with the Bible, because it is a huge book that is full of stories and teachings which sometimes make no sense until we step back and look at the full picture.

Today I want to consider two things the Bible tells us which look unpleasant by themselves but which make much more sense, and even combine into something beautiful, when we view them together.

The first piece is the strange story of Uzzah and the ark of the covenant. When King David was bringing the ark back to Jerusalem, II Samuel 6 records,

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‘The way is narrow’: Thinking about exclusivism

When sharing the gospel, Christians are guided by Jesus’ words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). It doesn’t matter if you’re a good person; it doesn’t matter if you follow the Quran better than I’ve ever followed the Bible; it doesn’t matter if you are a devout Hindu or Buddhist or Jew: the only way to be saved is through belief in Jesus Christ. When Jesus said “the way is narrow that leads to life,” He was putting into words what most of us have felt at one time or another when witnessing.

For anyone who has really challenged an unbeliever with the truth that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), it’s hard not to feel intolerant, especially in a culture where “religious exclusivist” is an epithet practically on level with “racist.” Worse, it’s hard not to feel that God Himself might be a little–dare we say it?–closed-minded. If He wants to save people, why be so restrictive? Why not throw open the gates all the way?

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