“Behold the Lamb of God who is to take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

Some weeks ago, not far from the entrance door of the United Nations in New York, I found a tiny chapel for meditation, an unpretentious place in which, as you enter, all you notice are the curtains on the walls, a table with a vase of flowers on it, and the quietness and stillness of a chapel. This chapel is all that has been able to be introduced into the United Nations because of the Moslem bloc, solidly opposed to anything Christian, and the Russian section, officially atheistic and opposed to any emphasis upon the world of the spirit.

But I am not thinking of the matter particularly from a political standpoint. I found myself asking, as I stood in that silent place, “Is this chapel and what it contains enough for a man to find God? Is this a sufficient highway into the presence of our God?” And I found myself facing the questions, “Where does Jesus Christ come into the picture? There is no symbol of him here. There is no cross nor Bible. Do we really need him whom Scripture calls the Son of God? Or is religion of itself sufficient? Is silence and these emblems of nature enough to help us toward God?”

Around the world today, and especially in America, there is new interest in religion. But is it enough that people are turning religious, that they have vague ideas about a Supreme Being and occasionally perhaps feel like praying? Is there any need of Jesus Christ in the picture? This is the question I pose.

The Christian God

First of all, I suggest that Jesus Christ is absolutely essential to the picture because only through him can we come to the Christian God. But what a man believes about God is all-important. It is not sufficient anymore to answer, “I believe in God.” There are too many different conceptions of him for this statement to be meaningful. The simple statement is not enough.

This was posed to me very vividly two or three years ago when I was taken from Australia to the Middle East for what happened to be the first convocation between Moslems and Christians. There for six days we sat round tables, thirty-five representing each faith, and we tried to find the points of likeness and the points of difference between these two great world religions. It was not long before it became very apparent that the point where we differed was regarding our conception of God. I remember early in the piece a debate developed as to whether in the Republic of Lebanon, where roughly half of the people are nominally Christian and half are Moslem, it would be possible to find a prayer for the schools so that each school day could open with Moslems and Christians saying the same prayer. I remember saying naively, “Would it be possible for a Moslem child to repeat the Lord’s Prayer?” And at once an old sheik from Saudi Arabia jumped to his feet and said, “Impossible! We could not repeat ‘Our Father which art in heaven,’ for God is not our father. God has no sons. He’s God!”

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Later on another scholar of Islam said, “You can talk about the slaves of God if you like, but not the sons of God.” Later we discussed the difference of our ethical standards. There was heard a justification of polygamy; there was a defense put up for slavery that still operates in Saudi Arabia. But when you penetrated to the heart of it, where it all began was in our different pictures of God.

In America, we have become used to a society that is penetrated by the Christian understanding of God. And although many reject Christ, we hardly know what it is to live apart from his revelation of the Father. What would we know of God, for instance, if we stood only under a towering mountain, or in a woodland, or by a lakeside? What would we learn of him if we tried to interpret him only in history, or listened only to our own whirring minds and the voice of conscience within us? Without the special revelation of Jesus Christ we would have no clear understanding of the one true God whom we may come to know and love.

D. T. Niles, Ceylonese leader in Australia, was once asked the question, “You live in Hindu Ceylon; how do you present the necessity of Jesus in a society where everybody believes in God or gods?” This was his answer: “Oh, I just repeat to them the words of Jesus, ‘No man cometh to the Father but by Me.’ ” And he went on to say, “One may come to some imaginary kind of god through Hindu idols and such, but no man can know the living God apart from Christ. And I would again pose the question of the chapel with the silence, the curtained walls, and the table with roses. Could this of itself reveal who God is?

The Fact Of The Church

Secondly, I suggest that Jesus Christ is essential to the picture because he has given to us the community of Christians called the Church. The Church as a fact is part of the fact of Christ, part of the essential contribution Jesus Christ makes to man. It is significant that in the early chapters of the Book of Acts, Christians, before they were called by that proud title, were known as the “People of the Way,” a new community of people, who practiced the virtues of magnanimity, forgiveness and love in a world that reserved its plaudits for materialism. And so, as people watched this new community of people move through the world, they said, “Ha, People of the Way.” And it was precisely because these “People of the Way” took their historic journey through the earth that that ancient world of Greece and Rome was arrested. Presently, its decadence was halted; new life sprang out of these cells of “People of the Way.” And precisely because there was a new community of people that emerged, a new culture, the Christian culture, came into being.

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Over in Australia, or in any country where your country is represented, we have a little bit of American territory. Right at the heart of Canberra, our national capital, there is the American Embassy. And there is a certain little piece of land which is really America; and if, as an American citizen, you step on that piece of soil, the laws of the Queen of England and the Commonwealth of Australia do not operate. You are under the President of the United States. There it is. A little bit of America! By normal diplomatic usage, that is America! And we, if we are obedient to Jesus Christ, are set down in a colony of heaven, down where the laws of heaven operate, and where the ways of the people of God are to be seen.

We need a “People of the Way” today to challenge the world again. And we need a “People of the Way” to remind the world again that Jesus is indeed “the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). Otherwise, how is this world ever going to be deflected from some of its poverty-stricken living and its evil activities unless there are a “People of the Way”? How do you think, for example, the purity of Jesus is going to stand in our sex-saturated society unless there are people who express in their lives the purity of Jesus? How do you think this floodtide of liquor that is moving out all over our communities is going to be stopped? How is it going to be stopped in its fallacious propaganda and from gripping human society in its tyranny unless there emerge people who say, “As for me, I can’t touch it, I will not succumb to its appeals. I follow another way.” So also this can be carried into the questions of race and war. How shall this world be challenged unless there be emerging people who think differently from contemporary sub-Christian America, or contemporary sub-Christian Australia? How shall there be an elevation of our society unless there are people who begin to be truly “People of the Way”?

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The Conscience Of Jesus

Thirdly, I suggest that Jesus Christ is essential because the conscience of Christ is the need of us all. I wonder has it ever struck you what a miracle is the conscience of Jesus? He lived two thousand years ago in primitive, out-of-the-way Palestine. And yet no one can say Jesus was ever a brake on human progress. No matter what issue arises, you will not find him away back in the past dragging humanity backward! Mohammed and Buddha do at certain points. Jesus is not away back there; he is far ahead. His conscience stands far beyond the point we have yet reached. The conscience of Jesus is one of the miracles of history.

We have reached a day when the conscience of man has rapidly to expand. Middleton Murray in one of his books says, “The time has come when man’s mind must jump forward.” And that word “jump” is well-chosen. A gulf has developed. We must gather our strength; we have to jump forward to catch up. Here we are in the atomic age. The peril of today is that we are taking into the atomic age stale old ideas that belong to the pre-atomic age. And man is lost unless he can find something that will cause him to jump forward in conscience and conviction.

The Need Of A Saviour

Lastly, I suggest that Jesus Christ is essential to man’s faith because every one of us needs a Saviour. It is not long since we were treating sin rather lightly, as though it were a growing pain of the human family. Throw a man a bit more education, let him become more civilized and he will grow out of sin and will leave it behind. But we are not talking this way so much anymore. We have seen too much of evil, and are now prone to talk of it as being a cancer—deadly.

What is the answer to the fundamental problem of evil? Deep down in the basement of our life there is a twin issue. Most of us are grappling with both the problem of ignorance and the problem of evil. They are both there. We have imagined that education grapples with both ignorance and evil. But education grapples only with ignorance; it does not necessarily touch evil. That is why a very clever man can be a clever devil. That is why George Buttrick says, “The only thing worse than a devil is an educated devil.” Education may just sharpen the wicked wit of man. It is time we saw clearly the limitations of education. Education does not solve the problem of evil! Only God in the Lord Jesus Christ and his cross and resurrection overcomes evil. The need of man is to have education come to grips with ignorance, and religion, that is, the Saviourhead of Jesus, come to grips with evil. Every one of us needs Jesus Christ as Saviour.

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A little while ago I was over in Los Angeles. I had one Friday there. It was one of the most thrilling days I ever had. I went to see Roy Rogers’ ranch. I did not see him there, but I saw Dale Evans, his wife, and talked with her. I had heard something of her story before; here was the confirmation of it. I saw those little adopted children running around the house. She feels as a Christian that she must do something to answer world need, and has therefore adopted a little Korean child, a little American orphan, a Scottish orphan, and a little American Indian. As I talked with this woman, now a mature Christian, I realized that five or seven years ago she was just another actress in Hollywood. But something had happened to this woman. Christ had come into her life, and into her home.

I was speaking a little later with a man who told me, “You know, I’m in training for the Christian ministry. How long have you been a preacher?” I told him. “Oh,” he said, “I’m older than you are, and I’m only just beginning.” Later I heard his story. He had been a criminal in Kansas City, right down in the depths, one of the wicked men of the city. Then one night, distraught, he stepped into a church, and there a minister found him and began to talk to him. Something happened. Jesus Christ, the Saviour, came into his life. He felt, though he was getting older, that he ought to do something for Christ. Then one day he read the story of Peter, and how he was over 40 years of age when Jesus finally picked him. “I suddenly took heart,” he said. “I was over 40.” And therefore, he is today in theological school, getting ready to give what is left of his life to the service of Jesus Christ.

I thought of the wonder of it. Dale Evans on the top of the entertainment industry of America; another from the depths of an underworld of a great city—each finding the same Christ, the same Saviour, the same answer to the need of their lives.

Why is Jesus necessary? He is necessary because a Saviour is necessary. Have you received him? We need not a chapel with silence, curtained walls and roses on a table, but a lonely hill with a cross at its rim, an empty tomb in a garden, and a risen Christ, Lord and Saviour. This is the need of our hearts.

This is an abridgement of a sermon preached in Riverside Church, New York City, by the Rev. Alan Walker, who served from 1954–55 in Australia as director of The Methodist Church’s “Mission to the Nation,” and in 1956–57 under the Board of Evangelism of American Methodism. A native Australian, son of the onetime president of the Methodist Church of New South Wales, he has received an honorary D.D. degree from the Bethany Biblical Seminary, Chicago.

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