As I was talking about the summer adult education program at my church, someone told me they thought I needed to remember Jesus' words "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Lord except by Me." The implication was that none of the people we met in our summer explorations are going to Heaven.
My mother had that sort of view, bless her heart. Somehow, she was convinced that somewhere in the Bible one could find a verse that said "Thou Shalt Believe and be a Missouri Synod Lutheran or suffer the torment of eternal Hell." Note the King James language. There was a time she criticized a Biblical translation I was using by saying, "Why can't you just read the Bible the way God gave it to us?" In her mind, God uttered the words of the Bible in King James English. There were some battles just not worth fighting with my mother...
I'm not a Greek scholar and what little knowledge of Greek I used to have is rapidly leaving me, but what if Jesus' words (which were probably Aramaic anyway) had to do with I am showing you the way, the truth that leads to true life? The emphasis then becomes looking at the teachings of Jesus and the examples set in Jesus' life rather than the belief in Jesus that characterizes the Christian. I happen to believe that Jesus is both fully divine and fully human, but I rather like the idea that Jesus showed us how to live our faith in every day life.
I especially like this interpretation of the verse when I consider another verse, "In my Father's house, there are many rooms." If Jesus, the fully divine, became fully human to demonstrate for us a way of living, it means there may be other ways besides believing in Jesus as God to get to the end result -- the Father's house of the second verse. One of the things that has woven itself into our summer experiences of Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam has been the universal seeking of enlightenment which some define as the God Within, some call Enlightenment, still others describe as walking with God or the still, small voice. Regardless of the terminology, all of us are seeking something beyond ourselves that I personally call God. I wonder if the many rooms are the many ways that people find God?
Our priest this morning talked about faith in God as the most elaborate, surprising, exotic meal -- beyond anything we could ever imagine that shocks and surprises us with each course to be treasured. He described this meal in terms of constantly revealing to us new aspects of our relationship to Jesus. Our summer of field trips has been just like that and, perhaps surprisingly, the experiences of the summer have strengthened our individual relationships with our Lord. Our Father's house has many rooms and we are constantly finding new ways to get to that glorious home!