Another Cardiac Unit Insight…
Is Jesus the only way to God?
I am often asked, “What did Jesus really mean when, in John 14:6, he is purported to have said, “I am the way…no one comes to the Father but by me?”
I was raised to believe that Jesus was saying, “I am the ONLY way to know God…if you do not believe in ME, you have condemned yourself to eternal separation from God.”
Is that really what Jesus meant?
I think not.
I thought about this during my brief hospital stay. A heart attack, even a mild one, has a way of bringing you face to face with your own mortality.
There are two reasons I know this is not what Jesus meant.
1. One, it would be completely out of the character and teachings of Jesus to exclude anyone from God who did not get his or her “beliefs” just right, even “belief” in Jesus. Such dogmatism was precisely the thing that irked him the most by the exclusivist religion of his day that was always drawing boundaries around those who were “in” and those who were “out.”
2. Second, clearly Jesus was a teacher of spiritual things – virtually everything we know about him…from him…comes to us as a teaching…a path to follow…a lifestyle to adopt…and, therefore, his words here simply mean, to borrow Thich Nhat Hanh’s brilliant analysis – and this from a Buddhist monk, not a “Christian” theologian:
“When Jesus said, ‘I am the way,’ He meant that to have a true relationship with God, you must practice His way. In the Acts of the Apostles, the early Christians always spoke of their faith as ‘the Way.'”
“The Way is not an asphalt road”…
(as in a paved, rigid system of beliefs).
“But we must distinguish between the ‘I’ spoken by Jesus and the ‘I’ that people usually think of. The ‘I’ in His statement is LIFE itself, His life, which is the way. If you do not really look at His life, you cannot see the way. If you only satisfy yourself with praising a name, even the NAME of Jesus, it is not practicing the life of Jesus…The way is Jesus Himself and not just some idea of Him…Many who have neither the way nor the life try to impose on others what they believe to be the way. But these are only words that have no connection with real life or a real way” (Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh).
I’d rather walk the way of Jesus; not just recite words about Jesus.
Isn’ that what it really means to be Christian?
Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, counsel to non-profits, faith-based organizations and congregations, and a spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers all over the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, “I love all religions; but I’m in love with my own.” Read more from Dr. McSwain on his blog Your Best Life Now.