We live in a world without absolutes. Pluralism is a common belief. It means that no one religion is thought to be the sole and exclusive source of truth and all religions are held to be different interpretations of the revelation from the same God. It promotes inclusivism, meaning Jesus is active in religions other than Christianity – hidden but bringing salvation.
Like us, the early Christians lived in a pluralistic world and they were known as ‘Those who belong to The Way’. Just before Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the Damascus Road he was searching for those who belonged to The Way so that he could have them imprisoned, because they dared to stand up and be counted. The Way was an early term for the followers of Jesus. It recalls Jesus’ description of Himself when He said, “I am the way,” the one and only way of salvation and the way to the Father.
For the first believers to claim that Jesus is the only way caused controversy (Acts 19:23). To exclusively follow Him meant certain death for not just a few (Acts 22:4). To claim Jesus as the only way meant being written off as a sect (Acts 24:14) and being tried for one’s faith.
In the Roman world emperors were worshipped as gods. Onlookers were confused by the followers of The Way, who worshipped the one God and were set apart as different. They were different. They were marked out by what they believed and by what they did. The first believers were active. Their faith was living faith and they lived it out in a hostile world.
The Way was, and still is, the way of love. The early Christians won converts, not simply by what they said, but by their kindness and compassion for one another. Ordinary people looked on and wanted to live the same way they did.
Tertullian, a second century writer, said of the followers of The Way, “Look how they love one another and how they are ready to die for each other.” Our text for today is the words of Jesus Himself. We are no different to the first disciples. When the world looks on and sees love in action among believers, they too will want what we have. The word used for this kind of love is agape love, the essence of which is self-sacrifice. Agape love is unique and is distinguished by its nature and character. It is a love that is of, and from God, whose nature is love itself. It is the love outsiders saw in the followers of The Way and the love that drew them into living faith.
It might be a good thing to ask yourself today, “Is there something about me that marks me out from those around me and identifies me as a follower of Jesus?”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the uniqueness of Jesus. Thank You that by the power of the Holy Spirit I too can live in the world marked out as different. Today, take my lips and let them speak as Jesus spoke. Take my mind and let me think as Jesus thought. Take my heart and let me love as Jesus loved that the people in my world will be drawn to Him. Amen.
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