The Way

He stopped me in the hallway at work–my former teacher, then a colleague. He’d been studying Greek, because, he said, teachers should always remember what it’s like to learn something difficult.

He asked me where in the Bible Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

I directed him to John 14.

He was especially interested in the word way, uncertain whether the English translation came from methodos or hodos. The conversation sparked my own investigation. I’m glad the terms I looked up were easy to understand (always a plus when dealing with Greek).

Methodos means a way of searching–inquiry. That meaning is secondary, but it’s the one my colleague mentioned. Methodos also means scheming, craftiness, and deceit. Strong’s Concordance finds it twice in Ephesians (4:14 and 6:11). Scriptures that warn us first of the cunning craftiness of men, then to beware the wiles of the devil.

But Jesus did not use methodos in John 14:6. He used hodos. Like methodoshodos has different connotations. “It can mean not only a road, a path, but also a practice.” So it is not only the way to go, the direction we take, it is also how we walk, how we encounter God and others through our lives.

Jesus is not a means of inquiry. He is the way to God. And He gives direction for our lives.

Before His followers were called Christians (Act 11:26), they were called the people of the Way. In Acts 9:2, the people “belonging to the Way”–hodos–were those Saul hoped to persecute as he made his way along the road to Damascus. Being called a follower of the Way was descriptive. Being called a Christian was an insult.

They stood out among the crowd. Some didn’t like that.

My colleague also wondered about the root of the word Methodism. Methodism’s founder John Wesley was well versed in Greek. Had Wesley intended to associate his view of the Christian life with methodos–a way of inquiry?

We were both surprised by what he discovered.

The name Methodism came in derision–just as the name Christian had in the early Church.

John and Charles Wesley’s fellow students at Oxford called them Methodists because they were methodical in their spiritual discipline and their ministry efforts.

They stood out among the crowd.

John Wesley once said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”

Wesley knew that to follow the Way was not the easy way.

Wesley, like Luther before him, did not set out to establish a new church. Luther wanted to reform Catholicism. Wesley wanted to reform the Church of England. In fact, Methodism did not even become its own denomination until it arrived in America.

In England and America, Methodism planted churches and encouraged moral living, literacy, and philanthropy. Wesley encouraged William Wilberforce in the fight against slavery. He advocated prison reform. He urged Christians not to simply collect and send goods to relieve the misery of the poor, but to go to the poor individually, each Christian engaging in personal ministry.
 
When He walked this earth, Jesus invited people to follow him. Wesley didn’t invite people to follow Methodism. He invited people to follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Strong’s Concordance renders truth (aletheia) in John 14:6 as reality. It translates life (zoe) to include both the “physical (present) and . . . spiritual (particularly future) existence.”

The Way, Truth, and Life invites us to a path that leads to reality for eternity.

And there is no other hodos.


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Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Freedom No One Can Take Away

“There you are, Ivan Denisovich, your soul is begging to pray. Why don’t you give it its freedom?” (161) 

In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, author and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn presents Ivan, a man yearning to be released from the Soviet gulag. Near the end of the one day the book depicts, Ivan has a conversation with Alyosha, a Christian whose joy defies the prison atmosphere.

In their exchange, Ivan acknowledges the existence of God but he’s seen corruption in the church. Alyosha replies, “It’s because their faith is unstable that they’re not in prison.” Only those with steadfast faith go to jail.

Only the faithful pay a price.

As the conversation continues, Ivan questions the power of prayer. “However much you pray it doesn’t shorten your stretch. You’ll sit it out from beginning to end anyhow.”

What Alyosha says in response is surprising. Stunning, in fact.

“Why do you want freedom? In freedom your last grain of faith will be choked with weeds” (163).

Now there’s a thought that seldom creeps into the minds of American Christians. For more than two centuries, America has been the land where faith is free. There is little if any cost. We only see advantages to our freedom, never disadvantages.

Right now religious freedom in America hangs in the balance between two ways of thinking.  

We are not quite one vote away from the gulag. But we may be closer than we realize to losing our freedom to speak and write, to proclaim Christ without cost. The threat that stands in the shadows now is our right to stand on the moral ground shaped through the blood and tears of martyrs, missionaries, visionaries, and great heroes who came before us.

One was William Wilberforce, who devoted his life to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor who resisted the Nazis in Germany. One of his co-conspirators was Claus von Stauffenberg, who planned the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler. Maximilian Kolbe gave his life to save a prisoner he never met before. Mother Teresa cared for the poorest of the poor. The list goes on and dates back to the earliest days of the Church.

These heroes lived in different times; they faced different challenges. All of them made great sacrifices for their faith. Those who lived with less freedom than we know still spoke, still acted. 

Someday, religious freedom may be no more in America. But make no mistake, we will still be free. We will still be able to speak, write, petition, proclaim. The only difference is that, then, doing so will cost us.

I remember something a friend quoted to me by Allen Boesak many years ago: “When we go before Him, God will ask, “Where are your wounds?” And we will say, “I have no wounds.” And God will ask, “Was there nothing worth fighting for?”

Our times are troubled. There are reasons to worry. But there are more reasons not to worry.

Alyosha said, “Of all earthly and mortal things Our Lord commanded us to pray only for our daily bread” (162).

Ask for daily bread. Thank Him when it comes.
And leave the rest to Him.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Freedom Nobody Can Take Away

“There you are, Ivan Denisovich, your soul is begging to pray. Why don’t you give it its freedom?” (161) 
In One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, author and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn presents Ivan, a man yearning to be released from the Soviet gulag. Near the end of the one day the book depicts, Ivan has a conversation with Alyosha, a Christian whose joy defies the prison atmosphere.
In their exchange, Ivan acknowledges the existence of God but he’s seen corruption in the church. Alyosha replies, “It’s because their faith is unstable that they’re not in prison.” Only those with steadfast faith go to jail. Only the faithful pay a price. Continue reading “Freedom Nobody Can Take Away”