the RAVEN FOUNDATION

More Bread, More Life, But No More Exclusive Interpretations, Please! (John 6: 35, 41-51)

Jesus is calling us into the fullness of life by recognizing that God’s love is for everyone.

S2:E29 EPISODE SUMMARY

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“Whoever eats of this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

More Bread of Life this week, but also more opportunities for exclusive interpretations of scripture that don’t affirm life for all. The words of Jesus have been interpreted in ways that make it seem like the fates of our souls depend on a theological test. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” This scripture has been interpreted in ways that can leave us feeling empty, malnourished, and hungry for something better.

What if the Bread of Life isn’t about exclusive beliefs, but something else altogether? What if it is about seeing that there is a way to be human that doesn’t exclude anyone?

When Jesus calls us to believe in him, he is asking us to believe in the way of generosity and abundance. That’s why it is particularly egregious to use these passages in a stingy manner that demands conformity on threat of hell for nonbelievers. As Adam, Lindsey, and friends discuss in this episode, there is no hell except what we put ourselves and each other through by believing that God’s love has limits and then trying to impose those limits.

Jesus is calling us into the fullness of life by recognizing that God’s love is for everyone.

When Jesus calls himself the bread that came down from heaven, he references the manna in the wilderness. He reminds the people how they came to know that God loves them, through liberating them and providing for their needs. He explains, “The way you experience the fullness of life is by remembering the love of God that provided for your material needs and understanding that that love is for everyone. I am the Bread of Life for the whole world. Anyone whom you may have considered excluded from God’s love — the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the demon-possessed, the tax collectors, everyone… God’s love is all-inclusive. And that means you are to live as if all people are your brothers and sisters, because they are.”

Jesus says the bread he gives for the life of the world is his flesh. That means God cares about flesh, and that means we are to care for each other not just as if our souls, but also as if our bodies and minds and all our human needs matter, because the do. Jesus gives his flesh unto death to show us that God’s love extends even to those executed in God’s name, and its from our forgiving victims that we recognize and are set free from cycles of violence in which we have been caught up. But Jesus’s flesh does more than die — it embraces, breaks bread, washes feet, and is physically present with the most vulnerable.

Feasting on the Bread of Life is about living in the kind of love that feeds and heals and befriends all.

The Olive
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