‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’
In reflecting on these familiar words of the John 14 passage I was struck by the traditional emphases I have heard in my younger spiritual life - heaven: resurrected Lord: Christian exclusivity: Johannine “I Am” statements: Father references to God. My theology has certainly passed through these waters and finds me looking back and wondering what truths I might find that I could embrace – truths that are inclusive of other traditions, truths that don’t propose heaven as some sort of “good boy” reward, truths that have room for more than one interpretation of resurrection, truths that embrace a wider understanding of the unknowable God than just “Father”. In reading Wishful Thinking by Frederick Buechner, I was given some help. Following is an excerpt that I offer for this Eastertide reflection:
What It Means To Be A Christian
“Some think of a Christian as one who necessarily believes certain things. That Jesus was the son of God, say. Or that Mary was a virgin. Or that the Pope is infallible. Or that all other religions are all wrong.
Some think of a Christian as one who necessarily does certain things. Such as going to church. Getting baptized. Giving up liquor and tobacco. Reading the Bible. Doing a good dead a day.
Some think of a Christian as just a Nice Guy.
Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He didn’t say that any particular ethic, doctrine, or religion was the way, the truth, and the life. He said that he was. He didn’t say that it was by believing or doing anything in particular that you could “come to the Father.” He said that it was only by him – by living, participating in, being caught up by, the way of life that he embodied, that was his way.
Thus it is possible to be on Christ’s way and with his mark upon you without ever having heard of Christ, and for that reason to be on your way to God though maybe you don’t even believe in God.
A Christian is one who is on the way, though not necessarily very far along it, and who has at least some dim and half-baked idea of whom to thank.
A Christian isn’t necessarily any nicer than anybody else. Just better informed.”
- originally published in Wishful Thinking
- Jim Avera