By David Armstrong-Reiner
May 31, 2019
I have been thinking lately …
… about other religions, other beliefs, even non-beliefs.
Often people turn to John 14:6: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Too many preachers use this as an exclusive claim for Christianity: Accept Jesus, or go to hell!
But that is not what Jesus is talking about!
You would have to take this verse by itself — and only by itself — to make such an exclusive claim.
The discourse of Jesus in John 14-16 immediately follows his last supper with them, a supper in which he washes the feet of the disciples, demonstrating to them what it means to follow him.
Jesus begins by reassuring them that he is preparing a place for them: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). Jesus is not speaking here about heaven — as too many funeral sermons have preached. Rather, Jesus describes the “dwelling place,” when he tells the disciples, “Dwell in me as I dwell in you” (John 15:4). We are the dwelling place of Jesus and God! Jesus is preparing each of us as a dwelling place, just as he is a dwelling place of God. This dwelling began when we were born, and it will continue beyond our death when we are joined completely with God.
So when Jesus tells the disciples that he is the way and the truth and the life, he is letting the disciples know that if they want to know who God is, then look at Jesus. The life of Jesus, the words of Jesus, show us the way to God, the truth of God, and the life found in God.
These words reflect back on what Jesus has shown his disciples when he washed their feet. Jesus is telling us that the way to God is found in the way of service. Jesus is telling us that true life, the life we were intended to live, is found in love. A love that gets messy with washing dirty feet. A love in which one gives up one’s life for friends.
John 14:6 was never meant to be used as a judgment against others. Rather, it was meant to encourage us to look at Jesus and find out who God is and what God intends for us. We directly oppose God’s intentions through Jesus when we use this verse to exclude others from God’s all-inclusive love.
And we have lost our way.
We have lost our way, when the church becomes known for whom it hates rather than whom it loves.