Is Jesus the Meanest Person Who Ever Lived?
Today anyone with convictions concerning basic principles essential to freedom, security and human flourishing are ridiculed and attacked by those who continually cry out for tolerance. The only thing not to be tolerated is what others see as intolerance. In other words, if you disagree with certain morals and practices, you will not be tolerated. This, of course, means that Christians who take the Bible seriously must be silenced.
John W. Traphagan, a professor of religious studies at the University of Texas-Austin, put it this way in The Huffington Post:
In many ways the big turn-off for many of us non-Christians is precisely that kind of arrogance, found in the firm and not very humble conviction that there is only one truth and … when it involves evangelism, the arrogance quickly can turn into a condescending attempt to “save” those of us don’t seem to recognize the wonderful things being done on our behalf and even can lead to violence.
On this view, Jesus was the meanest person who ever lived. After all, He said emphatically, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father [God] but by Me.” What does our secular, “open-minded,” create-your-own-reality culture think of that? “I’m an educated man — what do I look like marrying a woman who insists Christ and scripture are the only valid life paths?” asked one writer at the website Madame Noire. “An idiot, that’s what.”
So then we are fools for Christ, as the apostle Paul put it. The wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. So be it. If you want to know Truth, if you want to know the way to live and experience abundant, everlasting life, He is the way. Not a way, but the only way.
This doesn’t mean we cannot find wisdom among non-Christians. All humans are made in the image of God, and the apostle Paul even says God has made himself known to all men through his Creation. Theologians call this God’s general revelation, and they call His touching the hearts of all of sinful humanity common grace. But while all this is true, Jesus makes clear that no one will ever get to God the Creator apart from Jesus Christ.
Jesus even went on to say, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” And many other such statements from Him can be found in the Gospels. Such outlandish statements! This man must not be tolerated, the spirit of the age says. He must be cast down, thrown out, done away with, executed. Get rid of this preposterous person who has the audacity to declare that He is the only way to life and the only way to God. What insane, dangerous arrogance!
This is the wrong response to Jesus Christ, but there is one element of clarity in it. The one responding this way realizes that there can be no vague, comforting talk of Jesus as the wise, merely human teacher. This man, this Jesus, lived proclaiming the truth which He confirmed with such consistency in his life that He could challenge his enemies, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46, ISV) They could not, so they made up false accusations that even the Roman governor Pilate refused to acknowledge. Still, this individual — the only time perfect love walked on earth — was scourged, spit on, spiked and crucified. And at no point did He back down from his insistence that He was the Son of God — the Way to life eternal.
So, you see, we must accept or reject the man from Galilee. As C.S. Lewis said, Jesus is either Lord, liar or full-blown lunatic with delusions of divine grandeur. There is no wise-human-teacher option in the cards.
So which is it? How could a good and loving person be so unyielding, insisting that there is really only one way when there are so many other religions in the world? How can the general public be expected to have any respect for such foolish, extreme, preposterous claims?
Well, consider this illustration: A giant high-rise has been bombed in another terrorist attack. The structure has been mortally damaged and will soon collapse, though exactly how soon no one is sure. There are a few elevators and stairwells that appear to be in working order, but a man is there who knows that all but one of them are death traps, completely insecure. Over a thousand people are in the building. As it nears collapse, this courageous man stands in the main corridor with his arms outstretched. He shouts at the top of his lungs, “Go through that exit! It’s the only way out! There is no other way! I know for certain there is no other way. That’s the only clear exit!”
All of them are rushing to find a point of escape, freedom, life and a future with their families. They long for hope, a safe escape, but many of them refuse to hear. The exit he’s pointing to is narrower, and they would have to slow down to go through it. So they press past the compassionate individual who pleads with them to turn and go through the only exit that will take them to safety. “It’s futile going another way,” he calls to them. “It won’t work. It is certain death.”
A small number respond and take the exit he pointed to, and find it does lead safety and security, where life is spared and they have an opportunity to live another day, to love and enjoy their family along with the blessings and benefits of life itself. Those who rush madly by the man find the other exits fail them. They have wasted precious time descending stairwells that are blocked with rubble or suffocating smoke.
Now as they try to double back, others rush in and block their path. It’s a scene of total chaos as everyone is trying to find the way to life and a future, but indeed there is no other exit. Many rush past the man who is pleading and warning them with outstretched hands and is knocked to the ground by the mob rushing over him to find what they erroneously believe to be the best way.
They foolishly follow the majority — the crowd going the wrong way. The man with outstretched arms is trampled under the feet of those rushing by. Then when it’s too late, they turn to come back to the exit he pointed them to, as he lies lifeless on the floor, his body broken and crushed by those he tried to save. The man could easily have saved himself. But he stayed behind and directed all who would listen to safety and life. The majority perish because they refused to accept the only way of escape.
Was this a mean person, the one whose body was trampled to death by scores of people he tried to help? Was he indeed the meanest man in the building, insisting on the only way, or was he in fact something very different? Was he, above all things, honest, caring, compassionate and courageous for risking his own life to point desperate people to the only way to safety? Was he not a hero, with sacrificial love for others? “Greater love hath no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends.”
So, was Jesus, as some critics say, the meanest person who ever lived? People who are blinded by unbelief and who may have been hurt by some professing Christians, demand that believers stop declaring that Jesus is the only one way to eternal life. But all those examples of ungodly, hateful people who wear the name of Christ — examples that spur many to reject Christ — those must not shut our mouths. The inconsistencies of some who profess Christ should in fact challenge and inspire us all the more to shine a light, lighting a path to the One who, as He proclaimed in love, is the only way to life now and forever.