This question was asked of me by a parishioner 2 weeks ago. Great question because our understanding of an answer really determines where and how and if we are able to enter into conversation with people who believe differently than we do.
As I am a Christian, 2 things need to be stated; I cannot, nor will I, presume to speak for people of other faith traditions. Second, I can only speak from what I know and that is Christ and him crucified.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Again my starting point is Jesus. The only way I can begin to better understand what he means by “I am the way,” is through him; his words.
Lens 1 – This passage is part of the broader narrative of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. (John 13) Where words are insufficient, actions speak volumes. Jesus’ way has something to do with humility and grace. His is the way of sacrifice and service.
Lens 2 – Other “I AM” sayings (and there are many in John’s gospel) bread, water, light, resurrection and life. These are all words of invitation. They all show us the expanding, outward-reaching scope of God’s grace. Why shouldn’t it be so for “I am the way?”
Lens 3 – “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.” (John 15:9) So important is this that Jesus says it 5 times surrounding “I am the way.” We can’t read these words without hearing them framed by Jesus commandment to love – and not just those like me, but my enemies too, those who persecute me, hurt me, who are different from me, who believe differently than me, “because to abide in my love is to do this,” Jesus says. Jesus’ way is the way of love.
Finally, Jesus’ way is the way of the cross; the way of sacrificial self-giving love for others. Surely the Christ who died to save and redeem and draw to himself, in the fulfillment of all things, the whole of creation isn’t limited to my little brain.
I truly believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but “by him.” By him and not by me (or my understanding of what that means). If the heart of God, as shown to us in Jesus, has room enough for the likes of me, why shouldn’t there be room for everyone else?