Leaving Salem

Leaving Salem

Jesus as the Way, not standing in the way

“I am the way, the truth and the life,” Jesus said. We Christians are quick to fasten hold of these words. We properly talk about his uniqueness, Jesus’ distinctive nature, but maybe we miss the point.

Rather than treating Jesus as the way to know God, Christians often speak as if Jesus is standing in the way. Our view is not Jesus as an open door, but Jesus as a roadblock.

“Do you want to get to God? Sorry, you have to go through Jesus.” We pitch this sentiment out there like it is something dreadful. Jesus becomes an irate troll living under a bridge, ready to jump out and devour anyone traveling along the road.

But to the contrary, Jesus is an open path, much more open than many of us are ready to accept. Just read about some of the people he hung out with and who were his friends: Extortionists, the non-religious, the oddballs and outsiders, welcomed, they were, into his kingdom.

Jesus hasn’t padlocked himself behind a steel and concrete wall, waiting for those with just the right code to get through. His arms are open. His way is open. His heart is open. He invites all who will to come to him and find God; to come to him and discover what life can really be.

Most every day I cross the beautiful Choctawhatchee Bay. Birds, dolphins, jumping fish, boaters and kayakers are usual sites along the way. But to cross the bay, I have to use the Clyde Wells Memorial Bridge.

A mile and a half long and hanging there in theFloridasky, it is the only way to get my vehicle to the other side. What if I arrived at the foot of the bridge and treated it like a roadblock instead of a bridge?

“Who put this bridge in my way? I’m trying to get to the other side. What am I going to do now? My car doesn’t float you know. I guess I’ll just turn around and go home.”

How foolish would that be? The bridge is there for a reason – to be used. The bridge is not in the way. It is the way.

We should not speak of Jesus, not even when speaking of his exclusiveness, in such a way that communicates a lack of openness on his part. He invites all to travel with him and through him on the journey to know and experience God.

But following Jesus is about much more than getting to the other side (You know, going to heaven when you die). Following Jesus is a way of radical living for today, a life of imitation.

As long as we live in a “What Would Jesus Do?” world we can wrestle with hypothetical situations and largely remain who and where we are, safe and sound. But when we start asking, “What did Jesus do?” and “How can we do the same?” well, hold on to your hat because things are going to get willy-nilly.

For instance: Do we forgive others as Christ forgave, even those who murdered him? Do we turn the other cheek when we are mistreated? Do we love our enemies? Do we resist violence and power, opting instead for the upside down influence that comes from service and surrender?

Are we quick to cast off the allure of wealth, serving God rather than the pseudo-securities of contemporary culture? Are we accepting of all people – even those radically different than ourselves – and welcome them to God’s table?

Are we ready to speak the truth about religious hypocrisy, about the abuse of position and privilege, and invite those who long to be set free from all coercion to come to Christ to be set free indeed? If so, then maybe, just maybe, we are ready to begin following this way-maker, Jesus.

This life of Jesus-imitation goes far beyond propositions, creeds, and statements of faith. These are largely collections of powerless words on paper. But a way of life, living a life like the one Jesus lived, this is the sort of thing that changes the world.

Living like Jesus will pit us against the cultural and religious planet on which we live in some very fundamental ways. But being pitted against these means we have something worth saying and a life worth living; the way and life of Christ.

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