Thursday, 25 October 2012

Christians versus everyone else?

"I am the way , the truth and the life. No-one comes to the father except through me." John 14 v 6

When I first became a Christian this verse was used to explain, excuse and insist that Christians had it right and everyone else had it wrong. That only we in the church were in the lifeboat and would be 'saved' from drowning in eternal damnation. That we could and should be bloody-minded: we had the answers to the meaning of life, death and the cosmos.

I still believe Jesus is both the bees knees and the cat's pyjamas. I still believe his words and in this verse. But as my understanding of God has deepened, my faith has grown and I appreciate more and more the value of mystery, I simple can no longer with any authenticity hold the view that I'm right and everyone else is screwed.

I've read many translations, interpretations and exegesis that try to unpack this thorny little verse that innumerable Christian friends have relied upon as a trump card in our theological debates.  I have pondered, prayed and meditated on it. More and more I am convinced it is utterly true, but that using it to exclude non-Christians from God's 'shalom' wholeness (or salvation, if you'd prefer) is to have got the wrong end of the stick.

Today on the Northern Line, somewhere around Kennington I think, I read a beautifully succinct perspective on this by my dear friend, teacher and occasional guru Noel Moules in his astonishing new book Fingerprints of Fire, Footprints of Peace

In these words Jesus declares that he is the road to God. What he is saying is that only a person who follows him can know God with the intimacy of Abba (meaning 'daddy') and the quality of personal spiritual experience this enables. But he is not claiming there is no truth or life without him, or that God cannot be known apart from him.

'Coming out' as a Christian who believes God is not restricted to Christian's understanding of him was a painful experience, but every time I read a reflection like this my soul breathes a sigh of gratitude as I'm reminded just how big God is.

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