Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Is this verse about judgment, or love?

In John 14:6, Jesus says:
"I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."

This verse is often taken as a license to beat people over the head if you disagree with them on doctrinal issues.  But if you read the verse in context with the whole story it takes place within, you might notice some interesting things:
  • Jesus, the Lord of all creation, who is all powerful, and can command the starry host to come down and serve his every need or desire, had just wrapped a towel around his waist like a slave and knelt down to wash his disciples' stinky, dirty feet.  This was a job that was considered to be so degrading by the Jews that their law declared that a Jew was not allowed to require that a Jewish servant perform this task - it had to be a non-Jew according to their law.
  • The conversation that followed started with Jesus announcing that he is leaving them, and then he acts like a parent imparting final words of wisdom before he leaves.  He then takes on the role of Moses, and gives them a "new commandment" (his words, not mine) in John 13:34-35: "Love each other.  Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
  • If you read the whole conversation, Jesus uses the word "love" (or some form of it) 14 times.
  • Jesus just told his disciples that he is leaving them, and after saying "you know the way to where I'm going" (hmm...perhaps because he just told them the way?), Thomas said "we have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?"  And John 14:6 was Jesus' response.
  • Following this whole conversation, Jesus goes willingly to his death, never once taking an opportunity to defend himself with his power, or even speaking up in his own defense during his trial.  He does this because of his radical love.

Still think it's a license to smacketh people you have doctrinal differences with?  Or perhaps it could be something like:
"The life you have seen me lead - the life during which you've seen me healing, serving, restoring, and making peace; accepting and loving the untouchables, and even crossing over the sea to the land of your centuries-old sworn enemies and showing love to them as well; the life during which I've praised the faith of one of the high ranking soldiers who serves as part of the oppressive regime you are living under; the life during which I've called 12 disreputable men to be my closest friends (some of whom - without me - might have been sworn enemies because of their differing backgrounds); the life where I have made it abundantly clear that I want you to love EVERYONE no matter their genealogy or what they've done - living that way... my way... that is the only way to truth and life.  And your own strength is not going to be enough to live like that - you're not going to be capable of drawing near to the Father... except through me.  I'm going to go do something that's going to fix this problem, and you're not going to understand it right away - but just remember how I've shown you how to love.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, you'll start to figure it out, and I'll be there to help you along the way."

Just my thought, but maybe we should stop using this one verse as a judge's gavel to bonk people over the head with as we pronounce our own judgment.  Maybe that's not what it was meant for.

No comments:

Post a Comment