Thursday, December 11, 2008

One way, Jesus, you're the only one....

Claim: Jesus the only way. Consistent claim – of Jesus, of the Bible, of the church. Think, Jesus in John 3: 'you must be born again'. Famously in John 14, Jesus says "I am the way, the truth and the life..." - and to be fair pluralism might not have been his target audience that night, but the wider context of the Bible claims Jesus to be the one way to God.

Problem: Exclusive. Destructive. Offensive. Exclusive claims are not universally detested – many would see it as entirely reasonable to say that what you believe is true. Secularists are the ones offended by it – why? Exclusive claims are absolute claims and they wont retreat from the public square – they impinge upon everyone. Ashamed of our exclusive claims the Christian can be tempted to pull back, claim less or simply make no claim at all.

The Surprising Answer: In John 14, this is offered as comfort not arrogance. Comfort to those who think that having Jesus leave them is bad. Why couldn’t he just stay with them?

We presume to be able to come to God, he says – you can’t, you need a way.

The storyline of the Bible is one that seeks to get Humanity and God walking together again. It was that way in Eden… and then ‘Man is shut out. Then begins the way back: Tabernacle and then Temple and then Incarnation. Ever increasingly... We might think that’s the climax but then he says he has to leave them to prepare room for them. Then he rises, gives the Holy Spirit to live in his people… and finally humanity will live in a re-made world where God will come to dwell with his people forever.

While we stand back offended, the good news is that though there ought to be no way for man to come to God, there is a way for men and women and God to live together again. And that this is the least exclusive of ways – accessible by any not limited by intellect, race, gender, finance, class, culture, language. Universities are far more excluding discrimating by performace and access to funding amongst other things. The name of 'the way' is Jesus, who offers definite reconciliation to God for any who will come. But the path goes via him leaving his disciples, dying, rising and returning. It is only by going by death that he prepares a way.

We find that what could paralyse our evangelism, turns out to enable it.

4 comments:

  1. "Jesus the only way. Consistent claim – of Jesus, of the Bible, of the church. "

    Consistent claim of Jesus and of the Bible - of course. Consistent claim of the church? - sadly not always!

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  2. No, I guess I was being a bit optimistic there... I guess where what has been called the church has been the church then it would be true.

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  3. I guess the implications of this stretch out to our theology of everything in life - sleep, money, food, work etc. A small gospel that can't deal with those things isn't going to fit well with exclusive claims....

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