I am the way, the truth and the life…
One of the earliest descriptions of the Christian community is found in the Epistle to Diognetus, written in the late 2nd Century. It is the attempt by a Christian to give an account of the phenomenon of Christianity to one who was not. The writer names Christians as those who are identified with a “way of life.” Interestingly, the word “Christianity” does not appear in the text at all and the word “Christian” (a word that only appears three times in the New Testament) is only used in this text as an outsider’s term for the early Christian movement.
Point being that the early Christian movement was not first and foremost identified with a set of propositions or a prescribed set of beliefs or a definitive creed—but with a way of being in the world, a way of living in relation to God and one’s neighbor. A “way of life” was in the foreground.
In the New Testament, Christianity in its earliest days was known simply as, “the Way.” (Acts 9:2)
I recently gathered a group of folks who have been attending our worship services here at Glencoe Union Church—some for only a few weeks, some for several months, and others for more than a year. As I talked about what it means to become a “member” of our congregation, I realized that I talked less about signing on to a doctrinal statement or creed, and more about becoming identified with a group of people who do certain things regularly—gathering for worship being the most obvious, but by no means the only thing. I talked of the how the practice of Worship involves one in many ways. In effect, I was inviting them to join us on this way we are on together. As we walk together in this way, we cultivate a way of life, of knowing, and of believing. In the words of Robert Frost, “way leads on to way.”
In my earlier days, I understood this verse from John 14:6 with much more emphasis on “the” than “way.” I now place much more emphasis on the “way.” It is a distinctive way, to be sure. But a way, to be sure.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Prayer: Gracious God, as I make my way through this day, guide me in the way that leads to life. Amen.