(This is basically the print version of the point I made in my little Theology Bears video, Christian vs. Non-Christian: Who Gets Into Heaven?)
Christians big on talking about who does and doesn’t get into heaven inevitably point to this quote from Jesus found at John 14:6:
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
That’s the passionate evangelical’s go-to Bible quote; such folks depend upon that quote as ultimate proof that only those who believe in Christ are admitted into heaven.
“I am the boss of this nightclub,” said the formidable bouncer-type guy outside the hippest club in town, his hand on one end of the velvet VIP rope. “No one comes into this nightclub if I don’t let them in.”
Make the nightclub heaven and the door guy Jesus, and what’s the difference? They’re making the same statement.
At John 14:6, Jesus doesn’t say that only those who believe in him can get into heaven. Jesus was a bright, devastatingly articulate person. I think it’s safe to say that if he had wanted to communicate that the only people admitted into heaven are those who believe in him and the god he represented, he would have said exactly that.
But he didn’t say that, at all. What he said was, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Which is to say that he and he alone decides who gets into heaven. It says nothing about the objective qualifications necessary to make it onto that awesome roster.
As the non-Christian Theology Bear says, “Saying that it is up to me to decide who gets into this Moose Lodge is not the same as saying that every person who gets into this Moose Lodge must be a Moose.”
If evangelicals want to impress upon non-Christians the wonderfulness of the Christian way, it would behoove them (and all of us) to stick to the actual meaning of the actual words Jesus used, rather than lay upon any of his words an interpretation the words themselves don’t support.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.
See? When Jesus really wants to be understood, he makes darn sure he is.