Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

I hear plenty of people telling me that it's arrogant for Christianity to say that it is the only way, the only truth, or the only life worth living.  There are plenty who say that there is no demonstrable proof that the Christian way, the Christian life, is any better than any other.  

There are also plenty who say that with so many religions claiming to be the truth, they can't all be right, and what makes Christianity so certain it is.I am a lay person. I am self-trained in theology, so I could be wrong. However, here is what I have learned over the years.  

Christianity is the only religion that provides the way to perfect love, the truth about what it is to love, and which will produce a life lived for love.  I am sure that many people are already thinking that I'm being fairly bold on my claims, but I will explain my points and I hope you'll listen.

It begins with the crucifix. There are many atheists who find it a perfectly repugnant symbol of torture, but they miss the point entirely.  It is the ultimate symbol of a human being who was totally innocent of any crime being willing to love and forgive his fellow human beings at their worst. It is the answer to the question of "How far must I go in showing love to my neighbor?" 

The answer is - with every ounce of your being, all the way to death.  You must love them so much that you are willing to die to save them even after they've tormented you, spit on you, abused and beaten you, and all for crimes you did not commit. That's how far love must be willing to go.

Buddha did not do this. Mohammad did not do this. Their words may be great, but their example was incomplete.  Jesus didn't just love us from a distance at the moment of our darkest hour - he loved us up close and personal, and with his entire being. He poured out everything - every ounce of blood and every drop of water - from within himself for our sake.

Jesus provides the truth about what it is to love - it is a choice made to love people past their brokenness, past their unlovable behaviors and the ugliness within them. That is the only way to transform our world into a place where love for fellow man and peace between nations becomes a reality. 

This is also true - not everyone will respond. Judas didn't. Some people will reject you no matter how loving you are. You must be courageous enough and strong enough to love them anyway, because love is the only thing capable of bringing about lasting transformation. It resurrects people from a life that's selfish and dead inside to a life that's beautiful and fully alive.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus means learning to love our neighbor as ourselves. It means seeking out the broken, the lost, and the oppressed and valuing them as if they were the most beautiful and precious gift we could ever receive.  That's what love does.

It means finding compassion in your heart for those who have tried and fallen, and lifting them up out of the mud to tell them that even though they have failed and fallen a thousand times, you won't give up  on them.  You believe in them.

This is why Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  He did all these things his whole life, and he showed us the way forward.  He told us it wouldn't be easy. He told us it would at times feel like the heaviest cross in the world to live this way - but he also told us it would be worth it. When we embrace that cross and force ourselves to love past the unlovable behavior, we become capable of greater things than we ever realized were possible. 

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