October 14, 2019
This past summer I was able to work with two separate camps, both having the overall mission of sharing the gospel with children and adolescents. Being immersed in that environment where those working around me were Christians and it being generally understood by everyone attending the camp that the Gospel was something that we openly talked about and shared, it became unusual for me to see any big time kick back towards the Gospel – after all, the kids attending these camps had signed up and paid for the camp knowing that they were going to a camp run by a youth ministry organization.
After two months of really not having my phone for that much, I randomly decided to get on Twitter. It just so happened that the first headline I saw was about Maraji sharing the Gospel and offending many people. Until that headline I had no idea who Maraji was; @Maraji_, as she is known on both Instagram and Twitter (which have 1.1 Million and 102.7k followers, respectively), is a popular Nigerian YouTuber and Social Media Influencer whose real name is Gloria Oluruntobi.1 Her followers, just like with any celebrity, range in backgrounds, ethnicities, and beliefs, so when Maraji took to her Instagram story to offer thoughts on faith, she offended many with a repost of Own the Truth Ministries’ (@ottministries) July 24, 2019 post that bore a picture of Fred Flintstone and the words “THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO HEAVEN[.] NO ALLAH, NO BUDDAH, NO KRISHNA, NO EVOLUTION, ONLY JESUS” followed by John 14:6 at the bottom of the post, which reads “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
Many took to Twitter to vocalize their outrage or disappointment: Gimba Kakanda (@gimbakakanda) noted that Maraji was “insensitive to her fans”, a user going under the name Olumide O.G (@OlumideOG) tweeted “Some opinions are best kept unsaid, and the fact that she chose Eid-El-Kabir of all days, very offensive, insensitive, and uncalled for.”, Iyorah Obehi Desirée (@Desireeiyorah) said “Why is it so impossible for some Christians to fathom the idea that theirs is not the only way??”; these were just a few of the many tweets against the content Maraji posted, while there were also a host of supporters as well.2
The tweets criticizing Maraji bring up some valid questions Christians must assess:
Should we still share the Gospel even if it offends people?
Should we just let people go on believing their faith to spare their feelings?
What’s wrong with people believing other things?
For starters, yes, we should share the Gospel even if it offends people. Bluntly, the Gospel is offensive; there is an acknowledgement that our best efforts to be good enough are not good enough for Heaven, we are sinners, and we are deserving of Hell. It’s offensive and it hurts, but the truth of the Gospel crashing into us wakes us up to our depravity, our lostness, and our need for a Savior, which points us to Jesus, the greatest truth of all. People going under other religious banners will likely be greatly offended by the statement that Jesus is the only way, which comes as no shock considering that if you are saying that then you are questioning the very ground they stand upon; it is Earth shattering to say that the faith you follow is wrong and another is right. Through that breaking down of a foundation a new structure can be built on which you can rely; you can exchange the sand for solid ground.
Many will likely say claiming that Jesus is the only way is bigoted and stubborn, denying the presence of absolute truth. As Dr. David R. Reagan writes, “The mantra of the Post-Modern Era is the statement, ‘There is no such thing as absolute truth.’ Truth is viewed as being relative. You have your truth, and I have mine, and neither of us have the right to declare that our truth is the absolute truth. This mantra is a lie. First of all, it is hypocritical. Think about it: When a person asserts there is no absolute truth, he is uttering an absolute truth statement! He is saying, ‘It is an absolute truth that there is no such thing as absolute truth.’ The statement is self-contradictory.”3 When we realize that Jesus truly is the Truth, we should be inclined to share the Truth to dispel all the lies.
Letting people go on in their beliefs just because we do not want to be potentially offensive or confrontational is not really an option. Just the other day I was throwing a football with some friends and with my untrained and quite inaccurate throwing arm I launched a pass that veered towards a professor walking by. Seeing the potential pain coming his way, I called out “heads!” to give him warning, not just letting him continue on his way. The same applies to our faith; if we see people heading towards doom as they are misled, the only loving thing we can do is tell them of the impending danger, the perils that lie ahead, and steer them towards what is good and true.
Some of the tweets against Maraji asserted that Christians believe that their way is the only way and that is ignorant; it is not arrogant to believe that biblical truth is the highest truth and that Jesus is the only way, it is brave to stand up for the truth as the world tries to deny the firm foundation upon which you stand. The assertion that there are multiple ways to Heaven (as in different faiths and following different gods will eventually lead you to the same place as all other faiths) is wrong; polytheism simply does not add up if a person thinks through the concept of God.
In Greek mythology, different gods ruled over different things (Poseidon was the god of the sea, Demeter was the goddess of agriculture, etc.) but being the god of just one or a few areas of existence implies limits and confines. With God, there is no limit – He is infinite, incomprehensible, and Holy. He is the Alpha and Omega, Sovereign, and Omniscient; “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10). God is King and the King welcomes into His Kingdom whom He wishes; those who try to find another way into the Kingdom except through the designed way of His Son will be sadly let down and disappointed. Denying that there are other ways to Heaven and accepting the fact that Jesus is the only way to the Father is part of salvation.
While Maraji did right in sharing biblical truth, the medium through which it was shared may not have been the wisest. With social media, for the most part, it is easy to misinterpret tone and you are usually limited in how long your message can be, which speaks to there being better methods of sharing the Gospel. From experience, and from observation, that best way to share the Gospel is to do life with people, come alongside people, develop a relationship with the person, and then speak truth and act out truth within their lives. When you have a relationship with someone you have built trust with, they are much more likely to listen to you, trusting that you have their best in mind. With strangers on the internet, there is little to no intimacy or trust between the two people, likely making it way less effective; this is not to say that someone cannot come to know the truth of the Gospel through the internet, but doing life alongside people sets up accountability, discipleship, and a host of other things.
Regardless of medium, we must be mindful of our rhetoric, tone, and the way we treat people before, during, and after sharing the Gospel with them. The truth hurts but that does not mean we have to shove it down people’s throats. Like medicine, sometimes it is better to spoon feed it to people; the important part is that they are getting what they need. Be gentle but unwavering from truth, firm but not strict, listening and not closeminded, proclaiming and sharing but not screaming. The truth hurts, it may even offend, but through both of those, there comes eye opening, realization, and healing.
Written by: Landen Swain
Landen believes the human experience longs to be expressed; through our art, our labor, our songs, our storytelling. As a published playwright, author, and poet, he enjoys expressing his little chapter of the human experience through his writings and is thankful that the SA blog allows him to do that. He is published in numerous magazines, literary journals, and has several plays published by Off the Wall Plays, an online play publishing house.