Thomas a Kempis (or the anonymous author of 1418) in his The Imitation of Christ says, “For the kingdom of heaven consists not in talk but in virtue.” While in Israel, I saw the love of God in almost every person I encountered, whether Jew, Muslim, Christian, Palestinian, Druze, orthodox or secular. I know when one is away from their mundane life; it is easier to see the world. It is easier to step back and not be burdened by the cares of the world and of work and all the pilings of life. But I was able to step back and see as Christ sees, even for an instant. When I was atop the Mt. of Olives, I heard Jesus speak, “O Jerusalem, if I could only gather you under my wing.” I felt the longing God has for all persons many times while in Israel—that all would be united and meet their end—the One true God, the fulfillment of our longings and hunger and thirst.
In a poor Muslim area near Jerusalem (another part of the Mt. of Olives), there is a shrine where Jesus is thought to have ascended. There is an impression in the rock there that look like feet. It seems kind of silly to me as though Jesus was a rocket taking off. But this is not the point. The ascension happened, where exactly, I do not know. But the beauty of this small village was a Muslim boy handing out olive branches. As most people in Jerusalem, the boy was insistent about giving us the olive branches. And the one giving always wished to receive money in return. I refused the olive branch because I didn’t have any money to spare. But he was insistent in giving this to me. By his gestures I understood he did not want money (he didn’t speak English). When I took it, he had a joyous smile. I saw the light of God in this boy.
The olive branch represents peace, yes, but also eternity. In that small gesture, there was a unity though we may have had different perspectives of who God is. But I was reminded of C. S. Lewis’ The Last Battle the final Narnian tale. There was a Tash worshipper who was welcomed into the kingdom of heaven. He worshipped a false god–Tash, not the true God, represented as Aslan in Narnia (there’s more to this, but I won’t go into it all). The Tashban soldier was confused. Aslan encourages the soldier, though you were worshipping the false god, Tash, you worshipped the good aspects of the god (paraphrase). The soldier sought truth and goodness. Where is truth and goodness found? Only in the One true God.
In no way do I support universalism (universal salvation). But I saw this boy was seeking concord between me, a Christian, and him, a Muslim. I cannot imagine God turning him away from the kingdom of God because he believes in Allah and not the Triune, One God. Was his intention pure? Was my reading of the situation idealistic? Possibly. But I pray for souls to come to the true knowledge of Jesus Christ that they may be saved. For they may realize, some aspects of their worship was true and good, full of divine love. I cannot make judgment if God would or would not welcome this boy, at least, into the kingdom of God.
And I do understand the controversy of what has been put forth here. I am only speaking of one instance and speaking from my heart. God’s heart is that all will be saved and be in His eternal kingdom. But all will not be saved. Take the story for what it is, a prayer.