This Is the Way
In recent years, the phrase "This is the Way" has become instantly recognizable to Star Wars fans everywhere. That's because the titular character of The Mandalorian series often utters this motto to express his commitment to his strange alien religion. Never take your helmet off? This is the Way. Adopt a cute alien baby? This is the Way.
But the idea of a religion being called the Way is nothing new, and Disney has never been shy about pilfering ideas from the public domain. In fact, we see throughout the book of Acts, that the Way was what people called the gospel of Christ in the first century. In those days the Way wasn't considered a mainstream religion like Christianity is today. Rather it was considered a fringe, heretic sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5, Acts 24:14). Other seemingly more legitimate sects, like the Pharisees or Sadducees, battled with each other over the correct interpretation of God's law and considered the Way to be a heresy to be quashed (Acts 28:22). Nevertheless, this fringe group of Christians correctly followed the precepts of God, while those mainstream groups did not.
As a name for Christians, the Way may have fallen out of common usage, but we can still learn a great deal from it. The first thing you may notice is that the Way denotes a journey or a path from one destination to another. In our physical world we have a network of roads allowing us to go from our homes to the store across town, to other states in our country, or to other countries altogether. Our spiritual journey involves roads as well, and they can lead us to many different destinations.
The destination so many seek after, whether they know it or not, is God. C.S. Lewis describes this desire to seek after God as the God-shaped hole in our hearts that nothing else can fill except God himself. People have tried to reach God by many different paths: pleasure and self-gratification, false doctrines, and worship of idols, but instead of leading to God, those paths lead to a spiritual dead-end. The way of the transgressor is hard, says the wise man (Prov 13:15), but many follow that way.
There Is Another Way
There is another way, however, and that way is through Jesus. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Perhaps that first century name the Way came from this statement. If Jesus is the only way to God, those first century Christians followed that way. Jesus was also shockingly exclusive, when he said that he was the only way to God. In today's postmodern world, we are told that there are many ways to the same destination: Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and all other religions are just different paths to the same God. But Jesus makes it abundantly clear that he is the only way. You can even tell by the name the Way, that there's only one way, or else it would have properly been called a way.
Sadly, few will find this way that leads to life (Matt 7:14), even though it's available to all. People often want to take the easy way rather than the hard way, especially in a world where convenience trumps all.
At times following the Way will be a struggle, and the easy, broad way will be enticing. You can even see that concept play out in the material world. For those who have been blessed to visit Hawaii, the Road to Hana is a road famous for its scenic views of ocean, jungle, and waterfalls, but also for its hairpin curves, narrow roads, and sheer cliffs. To be rewarded with the former, you have to suffer the latter, so there are many tourists who choose not to go that way at all. Similarly, the Way is a path to great joy and satisfaction, but it also brings with it toil, persecution, and struggle, so those who find it are few.
So should we change the sign outside our building from church of Christ to followers of the Way? I suppose we could, but I am not sure we want to associate ourselves with fictional space bounty hunters. I would be proud, however, to associate myself with that ragtag sect of the Nazarenes, who risked all to follow Jesus: the way, the truth, and the life.
“A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; It shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (Isa 35:8-10 NKJV)