We live in an age where disturbing language or communicating in a way that makes folks feel uncomfortable is discouraged. And, to be sure, just being provocative or insulting is still rude and undignified. But, the truth is sometimes the truth isn’t very pleasant and avoiding the truth to avoid being uncomfortable is just as (perhaps more) dangerous to us than merely being polite to avoid conflict.
In fact, a wise man once told me that conflict is necessary for any depth of any relationship. Well, that certainly is counter intuitive to today’s society. But facing hard truths is absolutely necessary if we are going to grow and mature.
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in John 10:9-16:
The Lord said, “I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.”
The context of the Lord’s words and teachings here is just after He’s healed a blind man and that man has been kicked out of the Synagogue for defending Jesus. So the Lord says to the crowd the uncomfortable message that they are going to have to come to grips with His identity. And this conflict between what they are use to and what He offers them means they are going to have to choose!
Jesus says “I AM” the Door. And to make sure no one misunderstands, He describes what He means. He means that He is the Entrance, the ONLY Entrance to eternal life. And He makes clear that there is a “thief” out there who will try to convince you that there is “another way.” Jesus describes this falsehood as stealing, killing, and destruction. Think of it as two doors in front of you: One door leads to life and the other door leads to death. Learning how to tell one from the other becomes the most important work of your life!
Then Jesus says “I AM” the Good Shepherd. Let’s face it, we all need leadership in our lives to find the right path for us. And Jesus is making it clear that there are some who are leading the sheep who are nothing but hired hands. The second things get tough, these “hirelings” take your money and run! But the “good shepherd” stays on task.
This is in stark contrast to the religious teachers of the Lord’s day who are trying to convince the people to ignore the Lord’s teachings and stick with them. But Jesus lays out His clear and controversial words meant to tell all of us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except by Him!
Today, the exclusivity of the message of Christ is troublesome for many. They want to say there are “many paths” to God. And while this may be nice and even comfortable in a world that seems uncomfortable with objective truth, the Christian faith simply doesn’t teach this. The Faith once delivered to the saints embraces the singular moment of human history when God enfleshed Himself and came among us to become our “doorway,” our “threshold” to the abundant life of the Holy Trinity given to all who enter into communion with Him. All the other “paths” are untested and untried. They may be populated with “hirelings” who will abandon the sheep at the first sign of trouble. But not Christ. He is “THE Door.” He is what it means to be Orthodox on Purpose!