I began my sermon Sunday with the words, “Nothing in the history of the church has done as much damage as the idea that Jesus is the only way to salvation. No one can count the people we have tortured as heretics, no one can recon the families torn apart because one family member thought another would be tortured eternally if he or she did not convert. No one can calculate the minorities oppressed because they believed differently than the Christian majority.”
A visitor was waiting after church, visibly upset. He said I was leading people astray when I said that Jesus was wrong. I told him that I wasn’t saying Jesus is wrong, I was saying that people are wrong when they make God no bigger than their own understanding. The poor man was reduced to parroting phrases he had heard in his own church. Eventually he just left.
I grieve the damage done by the church to simple honest souls like this. I grieve at minds that greet each new idea with fear. The church does the world no favors when we say that God has only spoken to us, and that we must reject other ideas of the sacred. I cannot imagine a blasphemy more monstrous than that one group has defined the infinite and that their creed is the only correct way.
My sermon was on John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Heavenly Parent except through me.” I wanted to show that the Greek text reads very differently than the English.
In the passage, Jesus has just told the disciples he is going to die. He tells them not to be afraid because they know the way to where he is going. Thomas asks how they can know the way, and Jesus responds that, he himself is the way. It is critically important to realize that the “I am” Jesus uses in that sentence is not regular Greek. “I am” is the divine name that Moses heard at the burning bush. Jesus says in verse 10 that he is not speaking about himself. So Jesus makes it clear he is not saying that you must be a Christian to be saved, but something more profound.
I believe Jesus was reassuring the bewildered disciples by pointing out that he had embodied the way, the truth the life for them. He wanted them to know they were not being left behind. He symbolized the profound unity he felt by calling himself the vine and them the branches. His words are not to be understood literally as a sectarian religious leader, but mystically as Love itself. I believe he was saying to the grieving disciples that he was not leaving them as orphans. He was reassuring them that when they loved each other as he had loved them, they would be where he is.
He wasn’t saying “Only Jesus,” but “Only Love”