“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
~ John 14:6
This quote, as powerful and beautiful as it is, and as central to Christian belief as it is, would not seem to be controversial. But I am often surprised to find that people do not understand it. Some people actually find it shocking!
One of the most eye-opening (and disturbing) things I ever saw on television was a clip from the Oprah Winfrey show. At the time, she was the guru of a large segment of the U.S. population, mostly middle-aged women. If she put a book on her book club list, it was guaranteed to sell.
Furthermore, Oprah considers herself to be a Christian. She has publicly stated that “I am a Christian” on numerous occasions. Yet, she does not understand our Bible quote. She got into a major argument on one of her shows with a woman who stated that Jesus is the only path to salvation. Oprah disagreed, stating that there were billions of ways to find salvation, without having faith in Jesus (or even God, for that matter), but that people with good hearts would be saved. Oprah Winfrey repudiates John 14:6. In short, she stated a belief that nice people go to heaven, whether they have faith in Christ or not, and wicked people go to hell.
If Oprah — a person of good general intelligence, a professed Christian, and someone with a corps of researchers — misunderstands this, how many other professed Christians also do not understand it? They need to be corrected. People who do not know the basic teachings of the faith they profess, cannot help spread it. Moreover, they are apt to wander away from the truth in their own lives.
There is not very much we need to say about the meaning of the verse itself. Unlike much of the New Testament, the meaning is even clearer in Greek than in translation. “The” in Greek means “the only” more markedly than in English, and also, the Greek construction used to say “I am” is emphatic; it means “I am and nobody/nothing else is.”
The verse seems harsh to the secular world, especially to the “spiritual-but-not-religious” faction, who believe in God but (like Winfrey) think God rewards people with good hearts and selfless deeds by bringing them to Heaven. When they must listen to Christ’s actual teaching on the subject, it might sound like “we are better than you.” In fact, some self-styled Christian churches, not wanting to sound exclusive, will even teach salvation by goodness. They are not doing their listeners a favor!
Christ is the Word of God (John 1). If one does not believe in Him, then, one does not accept the Word of God. Christ does not merely tell us the truth; He embodies the truth. He is the truth. One cannot find God through ignorance or through lies, but only through the truth, and that truth is Jesus Christ.
Lord, I accept completely the truth that is your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer