Since I was a child, I have never felt like I heard what other people hear when they hear scripture. When I was very small, my mother used to read me passages and chapters of scripture as I was going to sleep, which I remember almost none of, but it did train me to fall asleep in church. (Just kidding Mama). Even at that young age, however, I was plagued with questions about the scripture I heard that seemed to be unusual to the church members that heard them. Without satisfactory answers, I determined at the age of 7 that these Christians didn’t know why they believed, and church became a much less interesting place for me.
It took me 14 years to realize that the point of Christianity is not the people, nor knowing why one believes, but a relationship with God. I came to that conclusion not through scripture, but through life experience. I got to know God slowly over time, in my heart, in times of need, and in times of joy. I came to recognize His warmth in my heart, but you know what? Even though I am now a firm lover of God, I still don’t see what everyone else sees when they read scripture. It is because of this that I became a theologian in the first place, I want to know what my perspective means for myself and for the Christians of the world. I’ll give an example, I just Googled a random Jesus phrase, and John 14 came up. Literally, I googled, “Jesus phrase”.
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Alright, so from what I understand, when the average Christian reads this they hear certain worship songs. They get a vision of God’s giant mansion with a bunch of rooms, where Jesus is apparently the only maidservant who makes up the bed (sorry that last bit was me). Anyway, in order, it’s like this for the average Christian. Don’t fear, you can get to heaven through me, I’ll take care of the arrangements. If you are a good person, follow the ten commandments and my example, I will return for you someday to bring you to heaven with me. In fact, I am the only way you’re getting to heaven. Who I am as a human and as God is the truth, I am the life of everything, I am all powerful and all knowing. There is no way you can get to heaven, unless you believe in everything that I am as a person, and do exactly as I say. Sounds rather Godfathery to me (sorry, me again.)
That’s my best approximation of what I have read and heard from various pastors and people via podcast and article. Seems pretty evangelical anyway. This is what I hear when I read this passage.
Don’t worry you guys, you can trust God, believe in what I am telling you. There is more than enough room for everyone with God, I know you don’t understand that right now, but there is, trust me. Yes, yes, I’ll double check, don’t worry. If you want to be with God, you can be there, if you like, I’ll even guide you there myself. Yes, I know it’s scary, that’s why I’m offering to come with you. Think of it as the next big adventure. Although, you already know how to get there. (Huh!? We don’t know how to get to heaven!? It’s like… in space and stuff!) No, no, that’s not what I mean Tom, I mean that you know the path in your hearts, it’s the same path I’ve been teaching you this whole time. My way, I, that is, my teaching, is the way to heaven. Love God and your neighbor as you love yourself. This is the way to heaven. You can’t get there any other way, no matter what anyone else says. Only through me, only through my teaching, only through these two basic commandments will you get to heaven. They take many shapes and sizes, but boy are they difficult to fulfill but I have faith in you guys! You can do it!
Can you see how this view is slightly different? It takes a much less direct view for one, although I would argue the first view isn’t any more literal, but it involves more of the relationship. When other people here I am the way, no one gets to God but through me, they envision some sort of gatekeeper, like Jesus is standing in front of God’s house with a flaming sword and a clipboard and if you’re name isn’t on the list of people who agree that Jesus existed, you’re not getting in. What I hear is a man desperate to get his message heard that humans will only find God if they listen to what he has to say. It’s the gospel message that matters to Jesus, not whether the future of all humanity believed he was God. The gospel message isn’t, Jesus was God and died, the gospel message is, your sins have been forgiven. It’s entirely relational, not historical, or factual.
I guess I’m trying to say two things, first, I’m weird see? Secondly, stop fussing over what you believe, and check your heart, because you know the way to God in your heart, (not your mind, which is telling you right now that your heart disagrees, but it’s your mind, don’t be fooled!).
Grace and Peace to you all!