You likely already know that Jesus is the only way to salvation and eternal life. As Christians, we understand that faith in Christ is necessary for reconciliation with God. However, you may sometimes wonder what Jesus himself actually said about other religions. Did he condemn all non-Christian faiths as false? Or did he have a more nuanced perspective?
In this comprehensive blog post, we’ll examine what the Gospels record Jesus saying about other religions and their adherents. We’ll focus on his direct statements, as well as the principles he establishes that apply to this topic. Along the way, we’ll reflect on how his words can inform our own approach to those of other faiths.
After reading this post, you’ll have a firmer grasp on:
- Jesus’s teachings about salvation and the exclusivity of his message
- His interactions with and remarks about Samaritans and Gentiles
- Principles such as love and spiritual fruit that aid our understanding
- How his statements apply to other religions not directly addressed
Let’s explore what the Gospels reveal about Jesus’s perspective on other religions.
Jesus Preached Exclusivity Regarding Salvation
One key theme that arises repeatedly in Jesus’s teaching is that he alone is the way to salvation. While respecting those of other faiths, we cannot compromise on this core truth that Jesus is the only source of eternal life.
For example, in John 14:6, Jesus declares “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The context makes it clear this applies not just to Jews, but to all people. Jesus here claims universal exclusivity – he alone provides access to God.
Similarly, in John 10:7-9, Jesus describes himself as the “door” for the sheep, stating that “if anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” Entering through Jesus is the only path presented for salvation. This resonates with Acts 4:12, which proclaims “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Jesus also warns there will be many who think they know him and even did works in his name, but who he will reject in the final judgment because they did not truly have a relationship with him (Matthew 7:21-23). Tragically, only those who know and follow Jesus will be saved.
These verses leave no room for compromise. While we can respect others, we cannot affirm alternative paths to salvation apart from Christ. Jesus claims exclusive status as the source of eternal life – a core truth we must hold firmly.
Jesus Had Compassion and Respect for Outsiders
At the same time, it’s important to recognize that Jesus did not condemn or despise those of other faiths. Though he critiqued false teaching, his interactions with non-Jews were marked by remarkable love and respect.
The most vivid example is Jesus’s engagement with a Samaritan woman at a well, recorded in John 4:1-45. Samaritans followed a different scripture and worshipped on a different mountain than the Jews, and the two groups despised each other (v. 9). But Jesus treats this woman with deep compassion. He engages her in lengthy spiritual conversation, offering her living water and revealing his identity as Messiah. She responds in faith and brings many other Samaritans to follow Jesus.
Elsewhere, we see Jesus commend the great faith of a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:10). He heals the daughter of a Canaanite woman, a group accursed by the Jews (Matthew 15:22-28). The only leper among ten who is saved and thanks Jesus is a Samaritan (Luke 17:16). Clearly, Jesus did not write off or disdain those of other backgrounds.
This example encourages us to have the same compassion and respect toward adherents of other faiths. We must uphold Christ’s exclusive role as Savior. But we can follow Jesus’s pattern of selfless love for all people, regardless of religion.
Principles Like Love and Spiritual Fruit Aid Understanding
In addition to his direct examples, Jesus lays down various principles that can help guide our perspective on other faiths. Two key principles are agape love for neighbors and evaluating by spiritual fruit.
When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus replies to love God and then adds, “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31 NKJV).Neighbor is not limited to fellow believers. He tells a parable equating neighborly love to a Samaritan caring for a Jewish man (Luke 10:25-37).
Elsewhere, Jesus states, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 NKJV). Loving one another includes those outside our faith. While holding to truth, treating others with care and compassion reflects the love of Christ.
We also find that Jesus tells us to evaluate by spiritual fruit. In Matthew 7:15-23, he states that false prophets can be identified by their bad fruit, while good trees bear good fruit. While we cannot accurately judge hearts, outward fruit can give some indication of spiritual life.
Thus, as we relate to other faiths, we should look for signs of grace and transformation with patience and humility. We can respect apparent works of the Spirit, while also identifying harmful practices and pointing toward Christ. Focusing on fruit keeps our perspective balanced and discerning.
Applications to Other Religions not Directly Addressed
Jesus directly addressed Jewish, Samaritan, and Gentile peoples, the main groups present in his context. What principles apply as we expand the application to other world religions he did not encounter?
We can derive guidance from both Jesus’s exclusive claims on salvation and his respect and care for those different than him. Jesus did not condemn the entire Jewish faith, but critiqued false teachers and practices while pointing to himself as the fulfillment of Judaism. So with other religions, we can respect adherents but identify where false teaching contradicts or undermines Jesus’s identity and role.
For example, with Islam we can note similarities on moral practices but point to crucial doctrinal differences on Jesus’s nature and path to reconciliation with God. With Hinduism, we can appreciate the desire for spiritual liberation while redirecting focus to Christ as the only true source of enlightenment and escape from sin. A balanced, nuanced approach is needed for each religion.
Across religions, Jesus’s spirit of compassion and dialogue provides a model. As in the case of the Samaritan woman, respectfully conversing and listening can open doors to discuss Christ. Jesus critiqued falsehood but always with the aim to redeem and restore. Our posture toward other faiths should be guided by speaking truth in love.
Conclusion: Loving Others Without Compromise
In summary, while Jesus made absolute claims about his exclusivity as the source of salvation, he did not condemn or disdain those of other faiths. He demonstrated remarkable compassion and respect, while critiquing falsehood.
As Christians, we are called to uphold Christ’s unique role as the way to God without compromise. But we can also reject attitudes of hostility or superiority toward adherents of other religions. Instead, we aim to love all people in a neighborly way, evaluate wisely by spiritual fruit, speak truth with grace, and point all to the redemptive work of Jesus.
By following both the exclusive message and loving pattern of Jesus, we can engage those of other faiths in a balanced, nuanced manner. Our posture should be marked by conviction of truth yet also humility and care in relating to others. Our example can point them toward the grace and new life found only in Christ.
As you think about people of other religions, consider both Jesus’s exclusive statements and his compassion. How can you firmly yet lovingly represent Christ as the only Savior? Ask God for wisdom in winsomely sharing the gospel while respecting and caring for everyone you encounter. Jesus is the only way to life – and he is the model for graciously inviting all people to find redemption in him.