“I am the way, and the truth and the life, No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jesus)
Jesus sounds narrow minded and arrogant. He suggests that we locate God through no other way but His. This kind of exclusive claim disgusts many of us. We are wore out with the mean dismissal of human beings on the basis of our believing differently from one another. No wonder we feel this way. So many have claimed that they alone possess what is true, that a great deal of harm and hurt has resulted over the years. And yet, despite this terrible harm that arrogance in the name of God has caused us human beings, it startles us, doesn’t it, to admit how important it is on some occasions to give thanks for what is exclusive?
Imagine for example the moment when the pastor says to the groom, “You may kiss the bride.” What if instead the pastor said, “You may kiss a bride.” Perhaps a drunken groom might like this fantasy, but almost every bride won’t like this nor will the bride’s family or closest friends. Why? Because anyone who has been cheated on, knows the damage caused. Any child of a divorce by affair, knows the profound pain and wreckage of an exclusive claim of love disregarded.
Sometimes exclusive claims are arrogant, yes. But what I’m asking us to gently consider is that sometimes, in spheres of life like these, an exclusive claim is necessary and even kind. In the right hands it protects love and defends misuse. If we interview for a job and are offered it or we put a deposit on an apartment to secure it, we count on the interviewer and the landlord to honor the exclusivity of the deal–interviews end. No more tenants are sought. We feel frustrated when we reserve a hotel room only to learn that they did not honor our reservation but gave it to someone else. The hotel’s lack of exclusivity makes our honest efforts to rightly secure a room seem futile.
We rely on a true friend to remain exclusive in their commitment to what they know of our best and worst moments. In order to resist gossip or slander, this kind of exclusive willingness to reveal this but not that, whether publicly through social media or privately to other neighbors, truly matters. In contrast, indiscriminate speech makes one hard to trust.
Or consider a recent article in the news, which described a young girl with rare disease. When her parents learned that only two doctors in the world existed who could help their ailing daughter, their response wasn’t, “that’s insulting, I should have more options!” “That is intolerant and arrogant. I protest my lack of choices!”
Not in this case. We can understand why can’t we? As parents they responded by saying something like, “thank God, there is someone in the world who can help the one we love.” Such parents do not complain if only one exists to heal. On the contrary, the fact that one exists at all, gives them hope.
If a doctor says, “well you can try this or that pill, it really doesn’t matter, all medicines are the same,” she will not likely earn our confidence. We expect her instead to say, “when you break your ankle you can do this but not that for six weeks.” In such cases, ruling out one behavior in favor of another is not arrogant but wise.
I’ve been wondering about this sort of thing. What if the issue here isn’t that Jesus made an exclusive claim? After all, if we stop and think about it, you and I depend on certain kinds of exclusive claims all of the time in order to do life, protect love, provide aid, build trust. What if the issue has to do instead with whether or not what Jesus exclusively claims is true? I mean, if we were actually sick and if he could actually save us, then likely, we wouldn’t complain that our options were too narrow. On the contrary, it seems to me that we would willingly give thanks from our hearts that one who can save us actually exists and can be found.