At a comparative religion’s conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity.
Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.”
Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions claim to have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?”
Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.”
The room fell silent.
Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.
After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride.
Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions.
Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requirements for people to be acceptable to him and in Islam God is a God of Judgement not a God of love. You live to appease him
At the end of the discussion everyone concluded Lewis had a point.
Only Christianity dares to proclaim God’s love is unconditional. An unconditional love that we call grace.
Christians boldly proclaim that grace really has precious little to do with us, our inner resolve, or our lack of inner resolve.
Rather, grace is all about God and God freely giving to us the gifts of forgiveness, mercy, and love. Christianity is totally different from all other religions. When I was young, I heard one of my teachers in college tell us that “all roads lead to God.” He was trying to impress in our minds that all religions are all the same. It simply is not true. C.S. Lewis is right. Only real Christianity teaches God’s unconditional love.
On April 28, 1999, just eight days after the Columbine shooting, shock rock singer Marilyn Manson was scheduled to perform a concert in Iowa City, Iowa. And since Manson’s music was prominent in the lives of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, there was a lot of emotion surrounding his concert. Mark Forstrom, a local Youth Minister in the area wrote about what happened.
He wrote, “The police, the media, and the community began to prepare for angry protests and ugly brawling between Christians and Marilyn Manson supporters.”
Suddenly, something totally unexpected happened. Emerging thru the vehicle of e-mail, another local movement suddenly sprang to life— that the only way to truly change our moral climate is to soften hard hearts. (The hearts of Manson fans have been hardened by their perception that Christians are mean-spirited, hateful, and judgmental.) Thus, the idea was birthed to unravel that stereotype by encouraging Christians to show the pure LOVE of Christ to these fans in tangible ways.
Instead, what they observed here was an amazing testament to the power of and love of Christ! Scores of Christians from churches all over Linn County and as far away as Des Moines (2 hours away) converged on the sidewalks outside the Five Seasons Center, to do two POSITIVE things: pray, and to show unmistakable love. It was a sight to behold.
~ Groups conducted “prayer walks” around the arena.
~ People prayed in huddles on the sidewalk.
~ Churches around the city held special prayer eetings.
As for showing LOVE to the fans,
~ One church purchased 100 pizzas, which were freely given away to the fans in line and bystanders.
~ Cookies and over 1,200 cans of soda were purchased or donated and distributed.
~ Someone made turkey & cheese sandwiches and gave them away.
~ One pastor asked Manson fans who passed by how he could pray for them–about 20 shared specific things & were prayed for on the spot.
~ After the concert, about $200 in cash (collected mostly by a local youth group) was given out to pay for parking in the parking ramp.
The Christians involved said, “We’re Christians and we’d like to show you God’s love by paying for your parking tonight.” The
immediate results of this love in action were phenomenal:
~ People continually asked, “Why are you doing this?” and then listened to the answer. ~ Two “live” radio reporters (one inside the stadium and one outside) discussed–on the air–how preferable it was to be outside with the generous Christians.
~ At least 3 people gave their lives to Christ through the loving care of the Christians.
~ At least one other fan that we know of chose not to go to the concert, ending up in church the following Sunday.
~ After getting the pizza, one kid commented, “Wow, Marilyn Manson never gave me anything!”
~ A Marilyn Manson web-site, reporting on our Christian response admitted, “so maybe those Christians aren’t half bad!”
As for the concert itself, many saw God work a miracle there as well. After only an hour, Manson abruptly ended the concert early. He suddenly flew into a rage: he threw his microphone to the ground, and stormed off the stage, never to return!
So to summarize the totality of Marilyn Manson’s visit to Cedar Rapids, we might say this: many fans came to the concert convinced that Christians were irritating and that Marilyn Manson was impressive and many left the concert feeling that Marilyn Manson was irritating and that Christians were impressive! Think of how much closer to the kingdom thousands of kids might be as a result of this unforeseen outreach event.