Saturday, July 9, 2011

Yes, Jesus is the only way to Heaven. No, I'm not a jerk for saying that.

John 14:6 is perhaps the most controversial verse in the Bible, at least in our culture today.  It's amazing that two short sentences can stir up so much hate, anger, and division. "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the father except through me."

Our culture struggles with absolute truths.  No one likes to be wrong.  And those who are right, for the most part, struggle with telling others they are wrong.  They are worried that they will get pegged as a narrow-minded jerk.  We've let our fear of being labeled a "narrow-minded jerk" create a blanket of cultural relativism, which is the idea that everything is right to someone in some way.  It feels warm and comforting at times, but ultimately will suffocate us.

Why exactly does this idea of cultural relativism suffocate us?  It seems counter-intuitive that the freedom to choose whatever truth you want to live your life by would be something that chains us to the point of suffocation. Why is it that true freedom is found in accepting one answer as the only answer?

First of all, there is the freedom from constantly second guessing ourselves.  In a culturally relativistic society, a lot of time and energy is wasted on debate and insecurity.  I will throw this out as my own perspective on it, but I have to say, if a Christian really is experiencing all their is in Christ, there should be no question in their mind that Life in Christ is the most inspiring, peaceful, meaningful and free way to live.  Now, that doesn't mean that I don't think a lot of thought and debate should go into making the choice to surrender one's life to Christ, but after that decision is made, except for occasional fleeting doubts, serious questions as to whether Christ is the absolute right answer is a sign that something is amiss in one's walk.

Second, there is freedom in knowing exactly where you are going to spend eternity.  And that there is an eternity.  If there is no question that Christ is the right way, then you know your pain is temporary.  You know you struggles have an end.  Not only is that incredibly motivating, but it gives us the freedom to persevere through our trials because we know there is an end with a reward.  There is freedom in having a definite  purpose, a clear end goal in sight. 

Then, there is freedom from perfectionism.  Christians and non-Christians alike agree that no one is perfect.  Yet we are all held in bondage by the idea that if we were just good enough, we could be "more perfect" than we are now.  Christianity is unique among world religions in that there is nothing you can do to earn your way to Heaven.  There is no standard of perfection to attain that "gets you in".  All you have to do is surrender to the "right answer" and you're good.  After that, you are allowed to be the screwed up, struggling and growing person that you are.  You may experience more or less blessings or discipline based on how well you surrender and obey God, but you are one with God regardless.  Nothing can change that.

Lastly, you are no longer bound to your own screwed up self.  In fact, you are no longer bound to your own limitations.  For one, you don't have to rely on your own ability to make decisions based on the exceedingly limited information we have.  We now have access to the Knower of all things, the Most High King of Kings, the Alpha and Omega, who also loves us unconditionally and always wants the best for us.  Why would we think we can make better decisions for our lives than He can?

It is our culture, not our God, that pushes us to this idea of cultural relativism.  It is understandable that someone who doesn't know Jesus wouldn't understand why we are so certain that Jesus is the right answer.  It is even understandable that they would get angry, possibly even violent, about it.  They don't understand.  But as Christians, who do have the right answer, who do know that Jesus is real and who understand the freedom and life that comes from surrendering to Him, we should not fear the absolute truth that Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life".  There is nothing to fear about saying, "No one gets to the Father except through Him."

If those words get caught in your throat, if you struggle saying Jesus is the right way and other ways are wrong, ask yourself...which is more loving, agreeing with a man to make him feel good and avoid strife, or telling a man that he is wrong so that you may give him truth that brings eternal Life?

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