What did Jesus mean when He said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him? (John 14:6) For too long, the evangelical church has been using the verse to say that Jesus is the only way to go to heaven. It is about time we question this interpretation. I believe everyone will be with God after they die because our spirit will return to Him who gave it. (Ecclesiastes 12:7) The good news is actually about knowing that God is our loving Father.
I remember a pastor taught that “Jesus is God, and comes from God, to show us what God is like.” I tend to agree with that, but at the same time, I also recognise that every society and culture at different eras of history may have their own understanding of God/gods, and I do think these beliefs have their place too.
Someone wrote: “I believe that there is one God, and He and His messages are just interpreted in different ways.”
So, my take on this subject is that when Jesus said He is the way, the truth and the life, He was speaking to His disciples – the Jews back then had a different idea of what God is like because they only saw a glimpse of His true nature in the old testament/Jewish scriptures. (Besides, they also had a mental projection of God as a mean and vengeful judge back then.) So Jesus told them He is the revelation of God as the Father who loves them unconditionally. (Not just Elohim/Creator or Yahweh/Covenant-keeping Lord or El Shaddai/All-Providing One) Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father”, and He affirmed to His disciples that they had indeed seen the Father because they had seen Him.
Jesus said to His disciples, “From now on, you know Him and have seen Him” (John 14:7). Amazing – the disciples were still alive when they saw the Father (through seeing Jesus). They had not died yet. So definitely John 14 isn’t talking about Jesus is the only way to go to heaven after people die, unlike what most evangelical preachers would have us believe. Rather, Jesus was telling them he was the way to see God as a loving Father who is compassionate and non-violent, who is unlike the mean and vengeful god often portrayed in the old testament, which was a mental projection of the people living back then.
To me, Father (or Abba) is the intimate expression of family love that is also self-sacrificial, unconditional and universal.
When Jesus told His disciples to go into the world to preach the gospel, I believe the great commission was already accomplished. According to some preterist views, all things have been fulfilled by AD70. The apostle Paul wrote “my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ… has been made known to all nations”, which took place before AD70. Since AD70, I believe Christ is in everyone, for the Holy Spirit has been poured out on all flesh in the last days (of the old covenant age). Maybe the good news to share with people today is simply about the mystery that has been made known to the Gentiles: Christ in you, the hope of glory. Yes, the good news is not about going to heaven or being saved from a place called hell.
As for gospel campaigns, I would say maybe it is not really wise or advisable to go to another country where christianity is opposed (and risk offending the people and risk being harmed by the extremists). It is ok if people in a region are open to the gospel, otherwise I think it is best to leave them alone and continue in their own belief system, and go elsewhere to preach. Sometimes, people fare better in terms of living in peace and harmony when they are comfortable with their native religions (whether native american spirituality or buddhism or new age or hinduism).
To me, any belief that promotes peace, love, compassion, harmony and freedom, and doesn’t create any sense of fear, guilt and condemnation, or a sense of separation from God or from one another, is one that is in line with God’s nature and desire for all humankind. Perhaps God himself is so diverse that He cannot be contained in any one religion or belief system, and it is up to each individual to choose which is best for them or most comfortable for them. “All things are permissible but not all things are beneficial” is probably a good guiding principle for me when comes to choosing a particular belief system – I would say that love and freedom (with responsibility) would serve as a good foundation for my choice of an ideal belief system (which happens to align with the teachings of Jesus or the gospel, but I’m open to learning from other religions too). After all, the whole law is summed up in this: “Love your neighbour as yourself”, for love does no harm to a neighbour. Others may have their own reasons for choosing a particular faith, or not to subscribe to any at all, but remain open-minded to people’s belief systems or philosophies, and that is fine with me (and I believe with God too).
(Adapted from Yahoo Answers)
P.S. A friend of mine, Leigh, recently shared with me that he was feeling kind of silly that he used to think he was bought by the church, rather than realising that Jesus had already bought him and ALL the people of the world. I can relate to that because we were all blinded in the past. Thank Abba for opening our eyes to see that Jesus is the Saviour of the world – indeed, He is the Saviour of ALL men. (1 Timothy 4:10)
(Post updated on 12 Feb 2013)
- What if Jesus has come back many times since the Roman Empire? (themysteryofchrist.wordpress.com)
- Thoughts on “A reading of John 14:6 – Brian McLaren”
- Christians and others, What is your opinion about cultural relativism and Jesus being one among other Gods? (Yahoo Answers)
- “Are We Really Hiding Behind Our Religions?” By E. Raymond Rock