The Way

Several years ago, I had an epiphany (no, not the web browser). While talking with a couple of my best friends, I said, 'What if John 14.6 is referring to a journey?' And (basically) from then on, I have been seeing it that way. For those who aren't familiar with the passage, Jesus stated, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me'. The way I explained it was (roughly), 'What I'm beginning to see is that 'the way' is a 'path', 'the way' is a lifestyle, 'the way' is the way of being truly human. Now, along 'the way' we will discover some 'truth'. And as we continue on 'the way', with 'the truth', we will come into life.'

That was the basis for my understanding. I think I can simplify it more now. When Jesus said, 'I am the way', I think he was speaking about the 'way' of being 'truly human'. If we want to follow Jesus, we must follow his 'way'. What is his way? Why, read the Gospel of John and we will see that the 'way' that Jesus was referring to was the way of self-sacrificing love. A way of emptying ourselves. A way of changing our way of being human (which is mostly self-centered) into his way of being human. It is this path, this way, that leads to God.

I'm not the only one who thinks this. What follows are quotes from Marcus J. Borg from his book, The Heart of Christianity:
Indeed, this theme (of dying and rising) is the key to understanding the well-known verse in John often used as the basis of Christian exclusivism: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No once comes to the Father except through me." To set this verse in the context of John's incarnational theology: just as Jesus is the "Word made flesh," so he is "the way" made flesh, the path embodied in a life. The key question then becomes: What is "the way" that Jesus incarnates? What is "the way" that Jesus is? For John, as for the New Testament generally, "the way" embodied in Jesus is the way of death and resurrection. Dying and rising is the only way to God.

...["The way"] that John speaks of is not about believing doctrines about Jesus. Rather, "the way" is what we see incarnate in Jesus: the path of death and resurrection as the way to rebirth in God. According to John, this is the only is "the way" spoken by all the major religions of the world. Dying and rising is the way. Thus Jesus is "the Way"--the way become flesh. Rather than being the unique revelation of a way known only in him, his life and death are the incarnation of a universal way known in all of the enduring religions.

Borg continues his discussion of 'born again' (which he sees as a metaphor for dying and rising) by stating:
This process of personal spiritual transformation--what we as Christians call being born thus central to the world's religions...[The] way that Jesus incarnates is a universal way, not an exclusive way. Jesus is the embodiment, the incarnation, of the path of transformation known in the religions that have stood the test of time.

...[This] commonality is cause for celebration...Not only does it mean, to echo an exclamation in the book of Acts, the Spirit has gone out to Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, and so forth, but it also adds credibility to Christianity...[When] Jesus is seen as the incarnation of a path universally spoken about elsewhere, the path we see in him has great credibility.

I could go on but you get the idea. I have found that this understanding is more palatable for a lot of people today. I know that there will be some people who will reject this view off the cuff. Those same people might read the Bible in a literal way and reject this type of 'seeing' the Bible. However, I think one of the best statements I have heard lately is also from Borg, 'Believe whatever you want about whether the story happened this way; but now let's talk about what the story means.' If we approach the Bible from that angle, it has a depth that I have not seen in quite a long time.

I have to let you all in on a little secret...This post is in response to a conversation that I had with one of the great friends I mentioned earlier. I found it 'ironic' that we have this conversation and then, just this week, I hear from some Tibetan Monks who are traveling the US. The first night they spoke of this same thing, albeit in some different terms. But for the most part, they talked about 'dying to self' and a 'new human being'. They talked about 'the way' which seemed to me echoed what I stated above and what I told my friend. However, the one thing that seemed to be missing from the conversation with the Monks but what Borg emphasized in the book was the 'truth' that people can't do this themselves. This is where reliance on the Holy Spirit takes center stage. Perhaps the Monks recognize this and call her something else, but it is crucial to Christianity. It is the Spirit that empowers people to actually follow Jesus on 'the way'. Maybe part of God pouring out the Spirit 'on all flesh' (thus the Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, etc. that Borg commented on) is this idea of the Spirit enabling people to actually to walk in 'the way'.

What thoughts do you have about this?

Peace be with you.



Kat said…
In my last theology class, my teacher said that there was a kind of "humanness" to which God wants us to live up to, and that this could be done by anyone of any faith. I asked him, "What about the verse that our priests and pastors always quote, that Jesus Christ is the only way?" And he gave an answer quite like yours, that Jesus was THE perfect human being; he set the prime example of humanness for us to follow. That's the "way" he meant. Then he added that Christianity makes it easier for many people to see to the heart of this call to humanness, but he does not think (and I don't think) that the call is heard only be Christians.

Nice blog. Will bookmark. :)
Kat said…
Just sharing... I attended a Catholic mass with my relatives this morning (they're Catholic, but I'm not), and the priest gave a really good message. There was just one point where he started to go on about how you needed to trace your salvation from the priest who baptized you, all the way back to the Pope and Peter being told by Jesus, "on this rock, I will build my church..." I was kind of annoyed, because as far as I know, the Vatican recognizes that salvation can be found, at the very least, in churches of other Christian denominations. I really wish that more people could look at The Way in the way you've written about it.
Odysseus said…
Thanks for the comment Kat. I am seeing some very cool things in the Celtic tradition of Christianity in which you might be interested. One of the key points is that Christ did not come to give us a foreign humanity but to show us the way back to our true humanity. Like I stated in a previous post, at our very deepest core, we do not find sin, but the image of God; the light of God. Sure, there are many things that are atop of this light, but they are not the deepest parts of humanity. The light, or life, of God is in all living things.

Thanks for coming by I hope you find many good nuggets here.

Peace be with you.


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