When I was a child growing up in New York City, some of my playmates in the neighborhood were of different religious backgrounds. Some were Protestant; some were Catholic. I wasn’t quite sure what the differences between the religions were. My friends seemed to be interested in the same sports I was, went to the same schools I did, and had the same difficulties in their studies. But, when the holidays arrived, each of us celebrated different ones. So, I approached my father and asked him what the difference was between what we believed and what my friends believed. He began to tell me the story of the three rings.
Once there was a man who had three sons; and he loved these three sons equally; and the three sons loved their father very much. They all lived in the same house and worked and played together. The father had a beautiful emerald ring that he always wore. But, it was more than just a ring; it was also the seal of that family. As time went on, the father grew older and was approaching his death. While on his death bed, he called in each of his sons to have a final word with them. Knowing that each son would cherish having the ring and knowing that there was only one ring to be given, the father had two duplicate rings made. Then, when each son came in, the father gave the son with whom he was speaking a ring and said, ‘This is my ring, and I love you. Do not tell your brothers that I have given the ring to you that you might have it as an inheritance and a remembrance of who I am.’
“The father passed on, and the sons came together. Each could not help but reveal to the others that he was the possessor of the ring. As each pulled out the emerald ring, the others were amazed that the father had, indeed, given each of them a ring. But which was the real one? Each insisted that the father loved him more than the other two, and he was the true possessor of the ring.”
My father used this story to teach me that the rings are like the religions of man; and the brothers are like man himself; and the father is truly our Father in Heaven. Each of us claims to have possession of the true religion and the true love of the Father. What my father was trying to say was that God loves all His children and that no one knows what the real or true religion is. No one should be so arrogant as to say that there is one absolute, true faith. I held this story in my heart for many years. I grew into manhood with it. I believed that this really was the way things were, that is, until my 22nd year when I came to meet Jesus, the real Messiah. I came to understand that knowing my Father in Heaven was more than just having the yearning to be a special person or wanting to receive God’s blessings. Knowing the Father in a real way is being transformed into His image. Being His son means having the responsibilities of loving, caring and demonstrating the concern He has for all His children.
And so, I wrote my father and told him that I had found a new ending to the story of the three rings. Indeed each of the sons had received a ring, but only one of them was special. The possessor of this ring would become more and more like his father. He would grow more and more in stature and would be able to teach the other two brothers the love and concern of the father. The ring was no longer just an object of his love. It was the vehicle by which the father would transfer his own image onto his children.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers…What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”