In our secular world, to say there is “No Other Name” than the name of Jesus is considered arrogant and abusive. The post-modern accusation is that to make such exclusive claims is to engage in an act of domination, seeking to overpower, oppress and silence all other religious claims. Pluralism tells us all cultural and religious viewpoints are equally valid. To insist, then, on the exclusive claims of Jesus is an act of superiority that tramples the dignity of those who are different so we can impose our view of things. Christian history, we are reminded, is littered with examples of how this cultural superiority breeds dehumanisation and violence (think of the Crusades, for example). Whilst this criticism unfortunately rings true at times, it misunderstands truly biblical Christianity.
Christianity should be characterised by a radical inclusion and service to others that puts hands, feet and voice to God’s self-giving heart for humanity.
Consider Jesus – the one about whom our exclusive claims are made. When we look at the Gospel accounts of Jesus we don’t see someone involved in an act of domination. Instead, we find a wise, strong yet humble man engaged in service and self-giving for the sake of others. Instead of marginalising, he went to the marginalised with a message of love and inclusion (Luke 13:29-30, John 7:37). Instead of drawing abusive in-group/out-group boundaries, he tore down the categories erected by his society and flung the doors of inclusion open to any and all (Luke 15:1-7). His sternest rebukes were aimed at those who misrepresented God as they played their exclusive religious power games (Matthew 23, Lk 11:37-53). Ultimately, we see him pouring himself out – through betrayal, torture and execution – in costly love for all. He did so to reveal a God who reaches out sacrificially to serve and include “the other”. No-one could conclude that Jesus was engaged in oppressive domination. And the instructions he left his followers show they should walk the same path of service and sacrifice (Matthew 25:31-46), even towards those who oppress and exclude them (Matthew 5:43-48). True Christianity should be characterised by a radical inclusion and service to others that puts hands, feet and voice to God’s self-giving heart for humanity. History tells us this is what the early church was known for; it was one of the ways they turned the Roman Empire upside down. Christians should be the last people accused of domination. So when we proclaim “No Other Name” we are making an exclusive claim – that the one who sacrificed himself in love for those who hated him is the one through whom God is calling to this troubled world with a message of hope, liberation and embrace.