John 14 (several parts of it)
One of the first verbs you learn in any language is ‘to be’.
I am/ you are/ he, she, it is/ we are/you are/they are
Because it is irregular it is not usually the FIRST verb we learn, but we have to get to it quickly because it is hard to communicate without it.
In Greek class, we learned
εἰμί = I am
εἶ = you are
ἐστί = he is, she is, it is
ἐσμέν = we are
ἐστέ = you are
εἰσί = they are
We find this verb is key in John’s gospel.
Jesus uses it to help us learn about God by telling us about himself,” εγο εμι,” he says, “I am - the way, the truth and the life” εγο εμι, “i am,” which is the basic phrase at heart of who we are.
I think, therefore I am said René Descartes. The simple meaning of the phrase is that someone wondering whether or not he or she exists - IS, in and of itself, proof that he does exist (because, at the very least, there is an "I" who does the thinking).1
Of course, the phrase, “I Am” stands above all others in biblical reference because when Moses asks the presence he encountered at the burning bush, who are you? the voice answers, “I am” – “I am who I am”
This ‘I am” is also the heart of Jesus’ message in John. Everything Jesus does, tells us the ‘I Am is Divine Love.” Jesus says, “I AM; believe in me.”
Cynthia Jarvis writes that in John’s gospel, “..believing is not an inward assent, but an outward & active commitment to Jesus.”2 (– and to who HE IS.) But Philip doesn’t understand. 'I am' isn't enough explanation, he wants proof, “Show us” he says. It’s as if Philip is thinking, “I think I know who YOU ARE, but I still have some questions.” And Jesus answers, “don't you KNOW me, by now, Philip?” “Haven’t you seen who I AM?”
We secretly sympathize with Philip and other disciples because we don't always 'get' Jesus either. . . and some of the people who profess ‘to be’ Christians, keep us wondering.
Over the years, religious leaders have equated knowing Jesus with agreeing with church doctrine, OR saying the right words, and doing specific rituals.
And some religious insiders look at outsiders and use these words in John 14 as a test, "do you believe that Jesus Christ IS the Son of God?.." They ask for an affirmation in words, or a statement of belief , instead of seeking a way of BEING.
Yet even Jesus said, if you do not believe in me...then believe because of the works themselves. (V.11)
Jarvis says, “Perhaps we religious insiders would do better to ask ,"are there others on 'the way' whose lives bear witness to Jesus' works but whose lips have yet to confess his name.- people for whom Jesus is preparing room, even if religious types ..will not?”3 Jesus’ ‘roominess’ is much more open than human exclusion.
“Are you saved?” is a favorite question of fundamentalists who seem to forget that “Whatever saving is done, is God's initiative, not ours..and its only because of who God is.." that anyone is saved.4
A recent author writing about God's inclusive love is getting a lot of attention.
Have you heard about Rob Bell’s book, LOVE WINS?
Some people are excited after reading his book to think that the “road to heaven” might not require jumping thru all the hoops that most Christians require.
Pastor & author Peter Marty writes about the type of Christian who is sure who will get thru Heaven’s Gates; they live in a world of arrogant certainty,
"Have you noticed how love takes a backseat when self-righteousness is behind the wheel?" he says.
He explains that what begins as spiritual confidence gets converted into theological certainty. Then that certainty gets applied to their account of God, & their faith becomes ideological. Humility vanishes. (&) Innocent people end up being damaged by the arrogance.”5
(I’m sure you have seen it happen, if you haven’t felt it yourself.)
“Other faithful Christians,” he says, “wonder why popular understandings of salvation get uttered in the language of threat, when Jesus so often spoke in the language of promise.” 6
I found myself agreeing with him and I've seen some of you cringe to see Jesus used as a weapon against the non-christian world.
Bell makes some key points in his controversial book.
What kind of Christianity teaches people that we need Jesus to rescue us from the judgement of God?
"Let's be very clear," Bell says, "we do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues US from death, sin, and destruction."7
But Bell's not a universalist, as Marty points out, "he simply refuses to limit how far Christ's redemptive love can reach."8
It is reassuring to me to know that there are Christians, even those with the ‘evangelical’ label who are thinking outside of the box of limited love.
Whenever love gets limited, We have to ask who is doing the excluding, humans or God? Especially when the limits are based on the correct reading of verses, praying in the right name, or following the proper practices.
Redemptive love is a gift from God. I AM love, HE IS love and ‘YOU ARE’ to be love.." The great ‘I AM’ is "love that overcomes the world's exclusions"9
When we believe in the "I am" The questions we ask are not to be of others in concern for what they believe, We just need ‘to be’.
To Be loving, as Christ loved
To Be living, as Christ loved
To Be including everyone that Christ would.
If we ask anything, it is to ask ourselves, where are we in Christ's equation?
But since you believe in the I AM, the source of all redemptive love, then YOU ARE part of Jesus' wonderful equation:
“I am in my father & you in me, & I in you.
and is that meant just for us? ..... What would Jesus say?
sorry these footnotes are so un-formatted.
i ^ Baird, Forrest E.; Walter Kaufmann (2008). From Plato to Derrida. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-158591-6. ii Cynthia Jarvis Feasting on the Word – homiletical Bartlett & Taylor, eds. (Louisville, WJK, 2010) Yr. A p. 467 iii ibid Jarvis p. 471 iv ibid C.jarvis p.471
v Peter Marty, Christian century May 17, vol 128, no.10 p.22
vi ibid Marty p. 23 vii Bell quoted in above article p.23 viii Marty p.25 ix Larry Bouchard Feasting on the Word Bartlett & Taylor, eds. Theological yr A. (Louisville: WJK, 2010) p.494