The whole nation was ecstatic. Their football team had won the world cup! No honours could be great enough for their current international heroes.
The team was greeted by a vast crowd as they returned from the tournament, they were hours at the airport being photographed and interviewed even though they had been passed through immigration and customs with record speed. At the third press conference the captain made a slightly strange statement. She said “I can now safely consider myself to be a perfect footballer.” This statement was overlooked at the time, but in due course a reporter picked it up when reviewing the euphoria. ‘Best in the world!’ maybe. ‘Playing at her peak;’ of course! But perfect. Just what can this mean?
In a later interview she expounded on her meaning. “When I say I am perfect it means that anyone who follows my training schedule and develops my attitude will become the best footballer that they can ever be.” This time the interviewer was stunned and simply asked how could she make such a statement? The captain replied that she could easily make such a statement because it was the truth.
The press went and asked her husband about her claim. As it was, he was also a current member of the nation’s men’s football team. To their surprise he completely agreed with his wife. “Yes my wife is a perfect player and I am in good position to judge.” When asked why he thought she was perfect, he said that she had every natural skill required to play the game, in addition her training regime was optimal and her knowledge and sense of the game couldn’t be improved. While it could be possible for someone to train up to be as good as his wife he doubted that anyone would ever be a better player than his wife. People in the future would still acknowledge she was the greatest woman player.
A reporter then arranged an in depth interview with the coach of the national women’s team; much to her surprise she found that the coach took the same attitude as the husband. “That captain of our women’s team is a phenomenon; she makes my job so easy, I feel redundant.” The coach agreed that her captain had every natural physical skill with an exceptional ability to read the game and direct her team while on the field; in addition, although captain, she organized the training sessions and personally monitored and mentored all the team members. The coach could not suggest a better way of training the team. When asked if a better player might be found in the future the coach supposed that it could happen, but there is no sign of any such players yet. The coach said by way of explanation that she considered her captain to be perfect because she was at a loss to suggest how she could improve and she was firmly of the opinion that the more closely any aspiring player copied this example the more that player would improve.
The reporter asked the coach what would happen if the captain was badly injured on or off the field. In such a case it was admitted that the player would no longer be perfect. What would happen if the team was beaten by a team of men? This time two questions were raised: Was winning every time, a mark of perfection? And did a perfect woman need to outperform a man in all aspects of a game? What if the captain was faced with a steroid loaded transvestite? The coach considered that this was not really expected in the terms of the current rules and later successes or failures did not alter the present nature of perfection. The coach agreed that with the growing use of steroids a new and artificial form of perfection would develop. Further the rules of the game might well change so much, that it this could reflect on the captain’s ability, but future changes cannot alter the present assessment of perfection.
The ensuing articles provoked intensive discussion around the nation for weeks. After all football was like a religion, wasn’t it tempting providence to say you were perfect? Then a priest pointed out that Jesus had told people to be perfect even as God is perfect (Matt 5:48). This didn’t help at all; both the religious authorities and the sporting bodies were screaming blasphemy. The sporting bodies were deeply offended by the idea that a perfect team could be beaten; this was most unprofessional! It all ended when the lady in question retired to have a baby.
I get annoyed, if not frustrated, when I try to discuss comparative religion with Christians and they cut short any intelligent considerations by quoting John 14:6 “ Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Usually I get the impression that I am being beaten about the head with the ‘flat side’ of a blunt two edged sword. Yes I know and agree with what Jesus said; but don’t these Christians ever stop and realize that my Buddhist friends in southern Thailand would also agree wholeheartedly with this verse. Further they would think that the term ‘Father’ is a good description of the transcendent god, i.e. the one they are not supposed to believe in. They would also happily agree with Paul in Philippians 2:10 “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth;” This could well happen. As the above parable suggests: truth can often be quite relative!
From Isaac FreemanAnother parable I’d suggest for John 14:6 is of a ferryman waiting by a river bank. A traveller arrives and sees that there’s only one ferry, and the ferryman confirms: “you can’t cross the river without me”. But the next day a different ferryman is on duty. There’s still one ferry, one ferryman, and no other way to cross the river. Each ferryman will rightly say “you can’t cross the river without me”. That’s not a sophistry: it’s precisely what the traveller needs to know when they’re asking how to cross the river.
When Jesus says “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”, I believe he is explaining the station of Christ as a manifestation of God on earth. Thomas has asked how he may know God, and Jesus has given the direct answer: you know God by knowing Christ.