FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.Whenever I share the message of Jesus plus nothing, most frequently I get an initial response-a quote from the mouth of Jesus: "I am the way, the truth and the life." This usually comes from a person who is friendly to me and is appealing to me from what is considered to be a foundational statement from Jesus, Himself. And by the way, I couldn't agree more, but I don't see Jesus as narrow and exclusive.
The damage that comes from seeing Jesus as narrow and exclusive fuels the sense of "we are the only ones who are right and going to heaven" and the rest of the world is wrong and going to hell. In addition to this, viewing Jesus as narrow and exclusive in this prideful way and believing that our way of thinking and believing is the only way, truth and life as well, does something that Jesus abhors.
Embracing this thinking shuts the door of the Kingdom on everyone else who is not one of us and we have become the judge on the matter. Granted this statement of Jesus seems to be quite narrow and exclusive, but it's only narrow and exclusive if Jesus lives within the limitations of a Christian box. Since I separate Jesus from Christianity, deny that Jesus is the founder of the Christian Church and reject the mission of Jesus as being to convert the world to Christianity, people believe I must be removing Jesus from being the way, the truth and the life.
This couldn't be further from the truth! It's not that Jesus is so narrow and exclusive; Jesus is more preeminent than we have ever dreamed and He is all-inclusive. He'll work with anyone! This brings us to SECRET #53: The follower of Jesus is all-inclusive.
In Jesus' first seminar in Matthew 5-7 He made a radical statement with respect to His relationship with the Jewish Law and traditions. He said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." Literally, Jesus didn't come to abolish the Laws and traditions of the Jewish culture; He came to fill it full-to bring fullness to it. It's like the Jewish culture with its Law and traditions was like a glass-a form with some sort of structure to it. Then, Jesus came to fill up that form or glass to its fullest-to fill it full. Jesus came to bring ultimate meaning and fullness to the Jewish religious system. In other words, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for the Jewish dreams and yearnings.
In the same way, I am coming to believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life for all cultural and religious systems and traditions. Jesus is the meaning and fullness everyone is looking for. Jesus fills up the various forms or glasses of every culture.
This may seem a little far-fetched for you to embrace at first, but give it some thought. We are finding the footprints of Jesus in every culture. Many years ago Don Richardson wrote a groundbreaking book Eternity In Their Hearts. His research demonstrated that the fingerprints of the Creator-God were found to be in many cultures. God is already there, because God placed "eternity in their hearts".
Our mission must be to introduce Jesus to the cultures of the world and encourage them to respond with their unique, cultural customs. Wherever this is done, the Jesus movement flourishes. Jesus is all-inclusive and wants to work with everyone. Jesus met the woman at the well who was a Samaritan with very different beliefs regarding the center of worship. He left her with cultural beliefs intact, except that He trumped the center of worship by saying that someday the center of worship will not be in a given location, but in your heart.
Jesus' encounter with the Roman Centurion, who no doubt grew up with the Roman gods, yet Jesus does not speak to this at all. His concern was his faith. When Jesus declared the Roman official's faith as outstanding, even greater than He had seen among the house of Israel, Jesus didn't tell this man to make sure to repent and go renounce the many Roman deities or his faith would be for naught.
Further in the scene in the healing of the Roman Centurion's servant, Jesus says: "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven."
In the 17th chapter of Acts Paul speaks in Athens and says: "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us." God made the nations-all nations-in such a way so that all men might seek and find Him. SECRET #53? The follower of Jesus is all-inclusive.