Monday, July 27, 2015
WALKING THE PATH
Mansion of Many Rooms, Biltmore,NC
Walking the Path to Eternal Truth and Life
As a Christian, one of the more troubling verses in the Bible for me over the years has been John 14:6 in which Jesus states that “No one comes to the Father except through me”. Context is always in play and Jesus proclaims this just hours before he dies on a horrific Roman cross. And I have witnessed many of those dubious media evangelists who work folks into a frenzy of hope and guilt as they “close the deal” by goading them up to center stage or their television set to recite the infamous magical incantation. But I’ve read that soon after morning's reality arrives, many of these folks will drift away from the path to salvation because they haven’t developed a personal commitment to sustain them. One thief on a cross next to Jesus did find immediate salvation, but that’s not exactly like talking to Jim Baker on the television for a couple of minutes.
So what’s to become of all the billions of human beings that were raised in other religions or were never exposed to this verse such as everyone born B.C.? I’ve always admired the spirituality of the Native American Indians who believed in a Great Spirit and were good stewards of the earth. I’ve often wondered what religion I might be practicing today if I hadn’t been born in America to Christian parents. For many of us, I believe religion is more a fateful matter of timing and geography than ultimate truth. If I had been born in India of Hindu parents, I’d likely be a practicing Hindu today.
And what about the fate of all those truly evil people who have caused so much human suffering in the world? Here’s where I believe the concept of free will enters the conversation. God knows our heart which is pertinent. He created this existence and He makes the rules regarding the saved and the damned. One of His main attributes we know about is His righteousness. A human who does the right thing can achieve a heavenly reward by God’s grace. An evil man who causes all manner of human suffering has earned eternal damnation. He is not condemned to be there, rather he chooses to be there. A loving God doesn’t choose to condemn anybody, but wants eternal life in his presence for all his creation.
Jesus used many visual images of the times to make his message clear to the people. A mansion of many rooms is certainly heaven for those living marginal nomadic and subsistence lives. He described it as a place with no need for a sun or moon, as God’s glory would bathe it in His eternal light. Jesus used the always rotting, burning city dump outside Jerusalem as a vile image for those condemned. The beginning of 2 Thessalonians describes their destiny as eternally separated from the love of God. This would also imply a place of eternal darkness. That sounds awfully dire to me.
Adam Hamilton offers another way to view the disturbing verse in John 14:6 in his book on Making Sense of the Bible. He offers a reading of “No one comes to my Father except through my saving work”. And if that’s the case, Hamilton asks “Why would we even want to tell our neighbors about Christ?” I love his response:
“I share Christ with others not because I believe all who don’t know him will be eternally tormented in hell. I share him with others because I believe that in Christ we see the clearest picture of who God is and what God longs for from humanity. I share Christ because I believe it is in knowing, loving, and serving him that we find the fullest and most authentic life possible. I share Christ with others because I believe God wants all people to know the good news of Jesus Christ. I share Christ because I believe he is the way, the truth, and the life.”