This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Is Jesus the Only Way?

I recently read a story about a Presbyterian seminary graduate who chose not to become a part of the PCUSA denomination because he thinks that in the PCUSA we don’t affirm Jesus as “the Only Way.”  First of all, all the official documents, statements, and confessions of the PCUSA do make this affirmation.  But his complaint was that there are people in the PCUSA who are uncomfortable with calling Jesus the Only Way, and the denomination does not generally ferret these people out, demand they recant, or boot them for heresy.
The people who have this discomfort are mainly reacting to the bad ways such exclusivist claims were used historically.  That is, the affirmation of Jesus as the Only Way has been used to consign to eternal perdition and torment lots of people who did not "accept Christ” as the church presented him to them.  It has been abused as a tool of domination, exploitation, genocide, torture, and conquest.  Since those heathens are going to hell anyway, we might was well kill them and take their stuff, is the argument.  
Some of us have a problem reconciling that kind of self-righteous, self-serving, arrogant, heartless violence with the actual life and teachings of Jesus.  Jesus does say no one comes to the Father except by him, and that those who do not believe in him are condemned.  But what does it mean to “believe" in him?  Who is he really?
I do affirm that Jesus Christ is indeed the Only Way to life and salvation.  What this means first and foremost is that I have to follow him by living according to his compassion, justice, shalom, healing, acceptance, forgiveness, and joy myself.  It would be hypocritical of me to demand that Jesus be the Only Way for someone else, when I am still working so hard to make him the Only Way for me.  Indeed, the better disciple I am, the more likely someone else will be drawn to follow him as well.  The better disciple I am, the less likely I am to act without compassion or forgiveness.
Secondly, the confession that Jesus is the Only Way, far from making us superior, dominant, privileged, and powerful, means just the opposite.  It is about Jesus Christ, who empties himself to give his life for the life of the world.  He rejects power, wealth, and “success” as defined by the world.  To use his name in the service of the domination and exploitation of the earth and others actually comprehensively rejects him and God. 
Finally, I confess Jesus Christ as the bearer and revealer of the True Humanity in which we all share, consciously or not.  The Name of Jesus is the center of my prayer life and spirituality; I do not discount or water-down its importance.  His name is more than some letters, syllables, and words; it is his essence and life which does indeed live in everyone, a truth that even many Christians are unaware of.  We have to be the Name, not just mouth it.
So when someone smugly huffs about how Jesus is the Only Way, I will agree that this is true.  But “Only” is about Jesus’ Way.  The only purpose of life is following Jesus’ Way of compassion for all, not judgment or condemnation.  His Way is the Only Way because when we do follow Jesus our life together in God’s creation is made more secure and fruitful; in him our life opens up to embrace God’s eternity.  


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