I watched the funeral service of Barbara Bush, 92, the wife of the forty-first President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush. The service was held in the beautiful cathedral-like St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, TX.
The former president and his bride had been married 73 years, a remarkable achievement in this 21st century and the longest marriage in U.S. presidential history. He described their love as a “story book.” Every night before George and Barbara went to sleep he said, “I love you, Barbie.”
Historian Jon Beacham referred to Mrs. Bush as “the first lady of the greatest generation.”
Susan Baker, close friend of Barbara Bush and wife of James Baker, who was Secretary of State under George H. W. Bush, referred to the former first lady as “the secret sauce of this extraordinary family.”
Son Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, referred to his mother as “the best role model in the world.”
When Jeb asked his mother about death, he said she responded by saying, “Jeb, I believe in Jesus and He is my savior. I don’t want to leave your dad, but I know I’ll be in a beautiful place.”
However, at the funeral service Dr. Russell Levinson, the pastor of St. Martin’s Church, said, “Jesus was Barbara’s pathway to God. She honored and believed that others found God in their own way, but for her, being a Christian mattered.”
Apparently Dr. Levinson was providing an accurate account of Barbara Bush’s theology. The story is told of a day when George Bush was president and Barbara and son George W. were having an honest and frank discussion on this very subject. George W. Bush insisted that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. His mother believed that God, being full of grace and mercy, would have some positive provision for sincere followers of other religions.
When the discussion came to an impasse, Barbara asked someone to get Billy Graham on the phone. When Dr. Graham became a part of the conversation he stated that he agreed with George W. He indicated that according to the New Testament that the only way to heaven is by the way of the cross of Jesus Christ and a personal faith in His redeeming work.
There are multiple passages of Scripture that verify Billy Graham’s answer: Consider a few of them:
- “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
- “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).
- “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).
- “Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
- “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).
- “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:11-12).
There are many other passages that attest to the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and quite truthfully, there is no Plan B for followers of other religions.
That is why we believe in the primacy of evangelism. That is why we send missionaries to the ends of the earth to reach the unreached people groups of the world. That is why we sing “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; snatch them in pity from sin and the grave.” That is why we give invitations at the end of our sermons.
With that being said, we should leave room for the mystery and mercy of God. No doubt some people will be there that will surprise us.
Consider the following poem by the well known poet, Anonymous.
I dreamt death came the other night
And Heaven’s gate swung wide.
An angel with a halo bright
Ushered me inside.
And there! To my astonishment
Stood folks I’d judged on earth
as being quite unfit or sinners of little worth.
Indignant words rose to my lips
But never were set free,
For every face showed stunned surprise –
Not one expected me!
We must continue to sow Gospel seeds everywhere, for only God knows the wheat from the tares.