That's my answer to the question "what is The Way?" Here's a quick recap from last week.
I was wondering about the power of the Bible to speak to us, to comfort and challenge us. And I looked at part of the Farewell Discourse in John 14, the verse "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). I suggested that, far from being the exclusive "no way but Jesus" that we've often understood it, Jesus meant the description he gives himself in the first half of the verse: "the way, and the truth, and the life." In other words, Jesus meant the content, not the label. Being open to hearing Jesus define it this way both affirms that Jesus is the path for those who follow Jesus and opens the possibility that others may find other paths by following a way which is true and life-giving. Perhaps the earliest followers of Jesus were acknowledging the importance of this way of understanding by calling themselves The People of The Way.
It begs the obvious question, though. If we're approaching this with the perspective of content versus label, then what is "The Way?"
The Way is love. Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell stories of Jesus answering a question about the greatest commandment: it is to love God and the second is to love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus shows how to live this love in his life and teaching, telling the disciples (and us) to "love one another as I have loved you." Following this teaching, living his example as best we can, is to follow the way.
That's where the simple becomes more complex, isn't it? Complex and challenging. Discerning what it means to love and living it in relationship with the world around us requires that we engage all our senses and that we love God and each other "with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37). That can be work - rich, engaging, rewarding, affirming, life-giving work.
Jesus has more to say about love and living it as he continues in John's farewell speech: "if you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth" (John 14:15-17). Again, let's think past the language for a moment. There's nothing conditional about that "if." Loving Jesus means living Jesus. Keeping Jesus' "commandments" isn't about following some set of rules to control our behaviour, it's simply about living love as Jesus taught. As the famous Ten Commandments weren't meant to just control people's behaviour, but to free them to live - rightly, justly, compassionately, lovingly - in relationship with the world around them. Maybe "simply" isn't the best word there. Sometimes we find it easier to control our behaviour with laws and restrictions, rather than transform how we live. And love transforms how we live.
Challenging? Sure. Our experience of the world often leads us to doubt and fear. But Jesus promises that we'll have help: an Advocate, the Spirit. We often understand the Spirit as the power of God at work in the world, the divine force or influence, the wisdom in action. Whether we perceive it as "a still, small voice" or wind and flame, that gut feeling, sudden realization, or the the desire for what is true, the Spirit moves us towards what is right with ourselves and in the relationships we have. When we listen.
The Way is love, Jesus is our example, the Spirit is our guide. Here we go.