One Way

one way signRecently a friend confided that he was troubled by John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Like many others, my friend was troubled by the way that this verse is often interpreted. The interpretation goes something like this: “God will only accept, and give entrance into heaven, those who believe certain doctrines about Jesus, like his virgin birth, his divine/human nature, his substitutionary atonement. Everyone else will be rejected and condemned.”

John 14:6 would trouble me, too, if that’s what I thought it meant. But I don’t, if for no other reason than that it runs counter to the profound inclusivity that Jesus modeled throughout his life and ministry.

There are, fortunately, other ways to understand and interpret Jesus’ words. Here are two of them.

For thousands of years people lived in fear of the gods, even offering human sacrifice to placate divine wrath. But if Jesus reveals the heart of God, then God must be loving, forgiving, and inclusive. Through Jesus I see God as the source of life and love in all creation.

Second, I understand “the way” of Jesus as the pathway of love, forgiveness and self-sacrifice … not the way in to God’s favor, and not the way out of eternal condemnation. The way, the truth and the life are not an end result reserved for people who believe certain religious doctrines. Daily dying to old self-centered ways and daily rising to newness of life is a journey that’s universal and inclusive, and God’s Spirit meets and empowers all who choose to walk that road.

I’ve met far too many who profess all the right doctrine but seem to walk the dead-end road of life-denying anger and judgment. But I’ve never met anyone walking in the way of Jesus – dying to self-centeredness and rising to newness of life – who didn’t radiate life-giving grace, no matter what their doctrine.

So, in light of John 14:6, I think the question is this: Which “way” are you walking?

Jeff Marian is Lead Pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN

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  • Ken Walter

    I wonder, is it then not necessary to believe in the virgin birth? My sense of faith is to believe that all the Bible records is possible, all things being possible with God. The reality is a mystery, and only those things I have experienced with my own eyes and ears in the Spirit come out of the mystery into reality, which then helps me believe in the virgin birth etc.