Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)
We all seek the truth. Whether we are Christian or not, gay or not, believers or not, we all want the truth. “The truth is out there,” one televison show assures us. And so it is.
In John, Jesus says he is the truth, the way and the life. I recently had a discussion of this passage with a man who believes the Bible to be inerrant. Our discussion had focused on the topic of truth.
My basic philosophy is that none of us sees the whole truth, and no one, not a religion, not a person, not a philosophy, embodies the entire truth. I believe only God sees the whole truth, only God can view the big picture. We are left with pieces of truth. We often cling to those pieces tightly, proclaiming our shard of truth to be the big picture .. the one true picture of God. We cling so tightly we do not even wish to hear that others may have some truth too. It’s impossible, since we are convinced our truth is the only truth.
My friend disagreed, telling me that Jesus is not a PIECE of the truth, but the truth himself. Jesus says it, and I must take Jesus at his word, but I believe my friend is hung up on the words and fails to grasp the full meaning of truth that Jesus is trying to teach us. To find the truth Jesus speaks of, I must live his examples, not just hear his words. Jesus is the way to God, only if we practice his way.
In the discussion, my friend made it clear that we must proclaim Jesus as the Christ, if we are to claim to be Christians. That is fine. I proclaim Jesus as Christ, I truly believe he is the Son of God. Not because he says he is, however. I believe he is the son of God because he fully embodied God on earth. I believe we are all sons and daughters of God. As such, we too can become a living embodiment of God by living Christ’s example.
We do not embody God by only calling Jesus’ name. I can praise Jesus’ name all day long and it will get me nothing. Only when I take that next step, and learn to live like Jesus will my worship mean anything. Only by doing in Jesus’ name will I succeed in my quest to embody the living God. Jesus says himself, “not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.” No, Jesus says only those who do God’s will shall enter heaven. How do we discern God’s will? Through Christ Jesus. By living the example of Christ we learn God’s will in our lives. By living the example of Christ, we touch the Christ within us, and we truly become sons and daughters of God.
Thich Nhat Hahn writes in “Living Buddha, Living Christ:”
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.” To me, “I am the way,” is a better statement than “I know the way.” The way is not an asphalt road. 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. We must practice living deeply, loving and acting with charity if we wish to truly honor Jesus.
Indeed, Jesus encourages us to live deeply in John 14: 11 “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” When we live a Christ like-life, we can proclaim just as Jesus did that as children of God we are in the Father and the Father is in us.
R. Kirby Godsey in his book When We Talk About God writes:
“Jesus embodies among us the character of God, and his complete life becomes our primary reference for seeing the meaning of our lives. Jesus should be no more equated with certain of his words or with certain episodes in his life than should you or I. We know Jesus, and we see ourselves in a constellation of episodes and words that reflect the heart of our being. The person of Jesus is the event in history where, for those of us who call ourselves Christian, God comes to us. It is the event where God’s unconditional acceptance and embrace of us is lived out in history.”
Getting stuck worshipping Jesus as a name, as a person, or even as a Messiah, distracts us from the real goal. Getting to God, becoming the living embodiment of God here on earth should be our ultimate aim. Jesus points us in the direction. Through Jesus we shall find the truth, and it shall set us free, but we must live it to see it. Worrying about getting our dogmas right about Jesus and who he is only leads us to an idolization of Jesus.
We only find the truth by living the life of Christ. Jesus is the way, he is not the goal.
Founder of Motley Mystic and the Jubilee! Circle interfaith spiritual community In Columbia, S.C., Candace Chellew (she/her) is the author of Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians (Jossey-Bass, 2008). Founder and Editor Emeritus of Whosoever, she earned her masters of theological studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, was ordained by Gentle Spirit Christian Church in December 2003, and trained as a spiritual director through the Omega Point program of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta. She is also a musician and animal lover.