John's Gospel

The Way It Happened

John 14:6, Jesus, the Only Way

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

//I was asked recently what this verse means to me, given my liberal Christian stance. If liberal Christians validate other religions on equal footing, then what do we make of Jesus’ claims of exclusivity? I don’t think there’s such a thing as a “typical” liberal Christian, but I can answer this question in my own way.

First, Jesus was unique, with a powerful message of compassion punctuated by an astounding sacrifice. I live in awe of Jesus, and Christianity is my heritage. Even as I recognize that every believer in every religion lays equal claim to the mystery of God, Jesus is still the one for me.

But back to John’s claim of exclusivity. Were there other Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings 2,000 years ago? Were there other humanitarian teachers of enlightenment, of life in abundance? Or was Jesus the only way? Even if there were others, I’m not sure John (or the author of the fourth Gospel, if it wasn’t the apostle John) would have been aware of them. But even if he were, can we really fault John for his loyalty to Jesus, particularly in the arena of religion? Even today, when a person experiences the Spirit, when he feels the presence of God, he tends to proclaim his discovery in exclusive terms. “I’ve found it! The one right way to live, the way of God’s approval!” The first-century Christian claim of exclusivity seems as natural then as it is of today’s variety of religions.

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