In my Sunday School class we just finished studying "Going Public with Your Faith." I highly recommend the 5-part study by Chip Ingram. This is not a commercial, but if you want to investigate further, go to http://www.livingontheedge.org/home/chip/chips-corner.php
In the last session, Chip explains the plan of salvation. It's a lot more than you think, so don't prejudge. What he says isn't unfamiliar. There is a deep gulf between the holiness of God and sinful humanity. Jesus is the bridge. All we have to do to become a Christian is walk across the bridge; i.e., trust Jesus. After thinking and discussing this in class, a couple more lights went off in my head. The reason God wants us to be with him is because he loves us. He's not on his side, tapping his foot impatiently and he's not evaluating or judging our imperfections. And actually he is not even standing around waiting for us, letting eternity tick by. Rather, he is more like the father in Jesus' story of the Prodigal Son. God is searching for us and anxiously awaiting our return to him. But he doesn't stop there.
And Jesus? Jesus is not the bridge. (Sorry Chip.) We don't walk across the bridge. Jesus is the one who walks across the bridge to us--a bridge already built by God (his prevenient grace)--to bring us home. And here is where reality differs from Jesus' story. In the story, the son makes his own way home. In reality, Jesus goes and finds us and then brings us home. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who finds the lost sheep. That is grace. We don't walk across the bridge on our own power, but only with the help of Jesus. Our part is simply to take Jesus' hand and follow him. Yes, we trust Jesus to lead us, but we take steps of faith. Perhaps baby steps at first. But as we continue to follow, God empowers us to love enough to find others to make the journey with us. When we follow Jesus together, we are the Church.
Jesus is the way, but he is so much more. And for those of us who have trouble trusting, God knows that too. He loves us enough not to let us keep ourselves separated from him, others, and even ourselves.
Thanks be to God. Amen.