Jesus told him, “I myself am the Way – I am Truth, and I am Life. No one comes to Abba God but through me.” (John 14:6, The Inclusive Bible)
I cringe inside every time this scripture reading comes up because it is often used by Evangelical, fundamentalist and conservative Christians to “prove” that believing in Jesus is the only path to God. (Can you hear my sigh?) The problem is that these folks have taken the most symbolic and metaphorical gospel and turned sapped it of all of its spiritual power by reading it literally.
In the Gospel of John we hear that Jesus is the light of the world, the bread of life, the true vine, the door and the good shepherd. Does that mean that Jesus is bread or a vine or a door? No, of course not. So, why would we understand his comment “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” as literal?
The way was a path, a journey, NOT A SET OF BELIEFS, and in this case, a path to the Divine. So, what exactly is that “way”? To get a sense of what the author of John was pointing to, we need to take a little closer look at his gospel. Without getting into a great amount of detail, we find that the entire movement of the gospel of John leads Jesus to his death and ultimate resurrection. To have new life with God we must die and rise again… metaphorically. This is the way of personal transformation, the way of new life, the psychological-spiritual process at the center of the Christian life. The path of dying to an old way of being and being born into a new way of being is the only way to God. It is also the way exemplified in every other major world religion.
The goal of the spiritual path is to shed the layers of baggage, ego, protective coverings that we’ve donned to try to keep us safe in the world, but which have essentially separated us further and further from the Divine within. As we shed the layers we get closer to our authentic self, the one which knows and recognizes itself as ONE with the Universal Energy, one with God, one with creation.
There are two fallacies to this process. One, that it will be easy. Letting go, willingly or not, is most often not easy. It can be a gut-wrenching, scary, heart-breaking endeavor. But it is necessary for growth. The second fallacy is that you will be supported in your dying and becoming. Changing something in your life almost always means that other people’s lives must change as well and they may not be terribly thankful to you for that. However, we cannot grow without going through this process, usually over and over again. The beautiful thing is that as we realize our becoming, we find ourselves feeling freer, lighter, more filled with joy and more authentically ourselves.
As theologian Marcus Borg has said, “Jesus is what the way embodied in a person looks like. He is what the truth embodied in a person looks like. Jesus is what the life (real life) embodied in a person looks like.” (Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, 217)