“Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslim, Democrats, Republicans, and many who don’t vote or are not part of any Sunday morning religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some were bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraquis, Jews and Palistinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”
― Jesus, The Shack
*This is Part Two of “The Hardest Question I’ve Ever Asked”. You’ll want to start there.
If you read my last post, you may be freaking out. What is going on with Steve Austin?! Is he becoming an Atheist? A Buddhist? A Muslim??
None of the above. I’m wrestling. But assured that this wrestling is not drawing me away from Jesus. Instead, it is pushing me to dig much deeper into what I actually believe about God.
I’ve had questions like this for a very long time. I’ve never been able to just accept the status quo or take what my pastor says at face value. But it is only in the past few months that I’ve had the guts to finally start verbalizing them.
But none have rattled people as much as this one: Is Jesus the only way to God? I’ve caught a lot of flack for even asking the question. But I know there are other lifelong Christian church attendees who have had that question too, at least once. I’m just crazy enough to state my questions in a public forum.
Aside from the stories at Christmas and Easter, the overarching theme of the life (and death) of Jesus can be summed up in one word: Love.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
Jesus is the perfect embodiment of Love. The easiest way for us to understand God. The most relatable way for humans to grasp a concept of perfect Love. And Love is the only way to God.
I’ve known plenty of people who live a sterilized religious life, can quote the Bible cover-to-cover, but don’t give a damn about their neighbor. People who are more concerned with being outwardly polished than inwardly honest. Those who are more obsessed with following the rules and being approved by Americanized Christian culture, than giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty person. I was that person, too, the first twenty-eight years of my life.
But Jesus was different. Jesus taught us to live our lives, with Love as the motive for everything we do.
Jesus constantly broke religious and cultural rules on behalf of the disenfranchised who needed love, healing, and belonging.
“Love changes everything.” I know, it sounds too good to be true. Too damn idealistic. But when we have Love at the center of our lives, when Love is our center, it changes everything.
When Love is the very core of who we are, what we are doing, and why we are doing it, there are so many things that no longer matter. Including religious labels. When I see God through eyes of Love, I don’t need God to be a Christian, and I’m not scared of God if a different name fits better.
“People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.”
-Fr. Richard Rohr
I don’t have all the answers, and neither do you. But when we operate at the fullest capacity of love, we can disagree well. We can respect the differing journeys of others. We can cooperate with those who seem nothing like us, because we believe in the common good. Because we love our neighbor.
When we love the GOD who dwells inside the person across from us more than we oppose the issue we’re discussing, the way we interact with everyone changes.
When Love is the ground beneath our feet, the oxygen for our dreams, and the Living Water that pours over us after a really hard day, it changes us.
Love changes others. And love changes us.
Love changes everything.
So, is Jesus the only way to God? I don’t know. But I what I do know, at least for today, is that Love is the answer. Always.