New Foundation Fellowship

Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel

I Am the Way, Truth, and Life... Is this Divisive?

Nonbelievers often criticize religion as a cause of division among people. It is true that some people treat their religion as a badge of group membership and an excuse to hate and attack others outside the group. Carried to an extreme, this results in religiously motivated terrorism. The claim is that all religion is bad because it divides people.

Of course, many who claim to be Christians behave in ways that seem to support this criticism. There are fanatics in Christianity as well as in many other belief systems. The human “tribal mentality” which we all have tempts us to divide people into the special group to which we ourselves belong and the inferior group occupied by everyone else. Christianity is one of many rationales used to do this, but such behavior is not justified by anything actually found in the Bible.

This is not a statement that all beliefs or “spiritual doctrines” are equal. “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me...And I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him...”Clearly there is a division between the world, and the “Spirit of truth.” Worldly beliefs do not bring about salvation, truth, or life. Jesus does. Thus, there is a difference between Christians and others.

However, this difference leaves no place for human pride. Salvation is not something we do that makes us special. Salvation comes from Christ and is offered freely to all people. “In him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world” (John 1: 3,4,9). So, being a Christian is not something we achieved and not a reason to feel superior to others.

The New Testament explains how Christians are supposed to treat others. There is a presumption that in conflict, it is the Christians who will be attacked: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves...” (Matthew 10:16). However, this is no justification for Christians to attack or hate people. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...For if you love [only] those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax gatherers do the same?” (Matthew 5:44,46). Jesus' teachings in the New Testament show that Christians are to love others, pray for them, and forgive them. When so-called Christians hate others, attack them, and try to destroy them, they are not following the teachings of Jesus. This is a reflection on them, but not on Jesus or Christianity as a whole.

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Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 6thMo. 3, 2015 at 19:59

In John 16:33b when Jesus says, "be of good cheer; I have overcome the world," I think that he refers not only to the many worldly corruptions (several of which you've written about here), but also the tendency to feel resentful or overwhelmed (I speak of myself here) by the seemingly endless variations of the Fall that we encounter in the world, all being some kind of deceit. It is the great need for Truth that surfaces and aches most keenly in the human heart and compels a surrendering into the Spirit of truth as the only corrective. Otherwise our distraction by the world's ubiquitous corruption in one form or the other, within and without, goes unchecked. In the third chapter of Hebrews, this feeling of sanctuary from error provided by rest in God is expressed in verse 11 where the ending verse of Psalm 95 is quoted.

We can see and feel the problem of corruption using our human resources alone; our only way to truly overcome the problem, though, is open surrender to the Spirit of truth, which, as you've quoted, the world neither sees, nor knows. 

Comment by Ellis Hein on 6thMo. 5, 2015 at 12:00

The charges of arrogance and divisiveness are leveled against those proclaiming Jesus' words, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." The charge of arrogance is merely a cloak for the arrogance of that wisdom that will not be humble before the Creator of all, will not bring its deeds to the light Christ enlightens us with lest its deeds be seen to be evil, will not heed the voice of Christ lest its rest in the things of this world be disturbed, and will not come to the life. There is a very marked distinction between those who will hear and follow the voice of the Shepherd and those who philosophize about this and that. Those who hear the voice of the Son have life. Those who will not hear are in their graves. Those who hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow are led into the pastures of life and drink from the springs of life. Those who will not hear feed upon the husks and drink death. Accepting life is not arrogance. Preferring death because I cannot make my own life is arrogant. And yes, there is a sharp division between those made alive by Christ and those who, by an act of will, remain in death. But again the divisiveness in on the part of those who are unwilling to come to life.

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