A few years back I went to a dermatologist to have a spot on my face checked. I had assured myself it was nothing. My dermatologist immediately thought otherwise. She insisted on doing a biopsy and later I got a call from her that we needed to visit. I knew instinctively this couldn’t be good.
When I showed up, she told me something I’ve never forgotten. She told me how Bob Marley died. Uncertain as to what this had to do with me, talking death with a doctor certainly had my attention. Apparently Bob had a melanoma under one of his toenails and his doctor insisted that his toe needed to be amputated. He refused to listen. He died as a result.
And why was she telling me this? Because she getting ready to deliver news to me that she knew I didn’t care to hear. She said I had an issue with this thing on my face and I needed to have surgery to remove it (it was an early form of melanoma). She told me about Bob Marley because she could sense I was resisting reality.
With no little amount of hesitation, and with lingering thoughts of the late Bob Marley, I had surgery. I haven’t died yet. To my knowledge, I’ve had no more issues.
Sometimes we are told things we just don’t want to believe are true, or real, or accurate. After all, what is true? What is real? These are obviously age old questions. But here’s a certainty: Truth is reality. Perception is not reality. Intention is not reality. Truth is reality. Truth is what is real.
Why does this matter? Because Jesus claimed something in John 14:6 that is absolutely SHOCKING! Ready for it? He said he was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him! Can you believe he said this? Well, he did.
Is this accurate? It is true? Does it represent reality?
While we could spend hours debating the issue and meaning of truth, there really isn’t much debate on what Jesus said. He didn’t express himself vaguely or equivocally regarding this issue. The shocking part of it is the clarity of it!
Again, is this accurate? Is this true? Does this represent reality?
I’ve learned that reality never takes any of our feelings about it into account. If something is true, then regardless of how it sounds, or how it makes me or others feel, it is true. However, if what Jesus said in John 14:6 does not represent reality, we should probably feel obligated to spin it and find ways to make it sound more palpable and less offensive. It does sound pretty exclusive, after all.
Yet, if what Jesus said does represent reality, it would be unconscionable to minimize, or modify, or muddle the message which Christ spoke so clearly. If this represents reality, trying to lessen the impact of it will 1) Not make it “unreal” or “untrue” and 2) ultimately do a huge disservice to the person who heard our modified version and will come one day to an encounter with the actual truth… in a very painful and consequential way!
But where I am not limited in is the way in which I express this truth to others. I believe that how this truth is experienced by others is very much affected by the way in which it is expressed to them. If I tell someone this claim of Jesus with a motive of being exclusive and arrogant, that is certainly how they will hear it. But if I say it with compassion for the individual because I’m compelled by the love of Christ, they will likely hear it differently. If the thought of us being “in” with God and someone else being “out” with him brings us any delight, we can be certain that we have lost the heart of Christ in the matter.
I would argue what the world needs most from the church these days is clarity and consistency of conviction. This, joined with compassion, seems to be what’s missing. In the early days of the church, believers had to take a stand against the prevailing belief that “Caesar is Lord” by stating clearly that, contrary to popular opinion, “Jesus is Lord.” Both these statements can’t be accurate. While the clear and immediate response of the prevailing culture was to seek to eliminate those who believed in Jesus, history clearly records the church prevailed and that those who served Caesar passed into historical insignificance. Why? Simply because of the way the church loved one another and expressed compassion for those outside of her! The church’s “reality” transformed the culture! To accomplish this, the church did not compromise on the truth, rather it expressed it through their radical obedience to the implications of it. We must do the same in our day.
So, back to John 14:6. You can believe this to be true, and use it to drive every unbeliever you encounter away from a relationship with Christ. OR, you can believe this to be true and let its truth drive you to become incredibly compassionate and caring toward everyone you encounter who is living outside a relationship with Christ.
How it is heard will depend on the way you deliver the news. I personally would rather die later with nine toes than today with ten. Handle the truth carefully. It matters big-time!