Exploring critical challenges to our presumptions on life
Recently a friend sent me a message asking for my comments regarding an article that made the radical assertion that Jesus isn’t the only way to heaven.
Instead of simply forming a singular response to my friend, I think this subject is worthy of pondering and sharing widely. It’s worth pondering if for no other reason than this claim of “Jesus is the only way” is the fundamental assertion of Christian supremacy for hundreds of millions of people.
Believe in Jesus? Yes? Then OK you get to go to heaven. No? Well then hellfire and brimstone for you my dear friend. Sorry about that eternal suffering stuff but what are you going to do since the good book clearly says so.
Or does it?
The assumption that Jesus is the only way to heaven arises primarily from a singular verse in the Gospel of John which proclaims: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
If you have spent anytime exploring other religions, then you probably know that Christianity isn’t alone in this bold interpretation of its sacred scriptures that they have the only true path to God.
Yep, pert near every expression of faith has followers that can point to a verse in their sacred scriptures asserting that they alone have the one true way to God.
Again, the most generous of those holding this position will be sorry that you going burn in hell, but hey what can you do? After all its right there in the BOOK!
But how does that assertion’s claim resonate with the understanding that God is love? I just don’t see it.
In my advanced years after lots and lots of theological wrestling with concepts, creeds and traditions, I’ve come to the conclusion that this practice of drawing barriers & boundaries around the access to God is pretty much like drawing barriers and boundaries on the Globe. Yeah, I’ve concluded it’s a human trait to draw barriers & boundaries not a Godly trait.
The poet that wrote the book of Genesis made a very bold assertion very early on in this amazing book that attempts to convey how Creation came to be: “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Now that verse resonates for me with the concept that God is love.
So, if everything and everyone of God’s creatures (yes including you & I and even those that don’t remotely resemble you & I) is deemed by God to be “Very Good” then where do we get the warped idea that we can create boundaries and barriers when God has not? On what basis do we get to judge and exclude others from God?
This concept of desiring to exclude others from being a member of God’s Good Creation is an ancient sin. I’m confident that archeologists can point to cave drawings which convey this very same concept: I’m on the inside and you are on the outside so just go ahead and die. It’s like we never outgrew the childhood cruelties practiced in the school yard except now we do it with weapons of economic deprivation or environmental degradation or mass destruction or at least erecting walls isolating us from “them others”.
This argument is played out exceeding well in chapters 10 & 11 of the Book of Acts where Peter is castigated by his fellow early disciples for having the audacity to go to Gentiles with the Good News. His response is one that guides much of my current understanding on a faith filled life: “who was I that I could hinder God?” (Acts 11:17)
There’s a basic human failing which is to attempt to be God or direct God or limit who God can love.
Who am I to think that I can limit God? Yeah, that’s a really tough question which if we are honest enough to raise it then it should knock us back to reality when we get tempted to be supreme over others or any of God’s good creation.
In full confession, I’m hopelessly Christian but for me that simply and totally means being a follower of Jesus not human dogma and creeds. So as to the common assertion that God is limited to reaching humans with the message to live a life rooted in love only through Christianity, who are we to hinder God?
So, returning to our opening verse of John 14:6. I find it helpful to my life faith journey to re-phrase it this way:
Jesus came to show me the truth about the way I am to live.
The way is first and forevermore rooted in the practice of sacrificial compassionate love seeking justice for all of God’s Good Creation.
As to boundaries and barriers? On my better days, I know that God would say tear them down.