When we think of Christianity, we think of Jesus. Not many Christians
believe that he came to found a new religion. Jesus was Jewish and
he came first to his own people, to encourage them in the exhortation
of Micah the prophet: to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly
before God. All of Jesus' teachings fall under this heading. But
the conventional wisdom and mainstream religion of the day would
not have it: "It has to be more complicated than that!" However,
the ways of God are simple; we are the complicated ones. While Jesus
lived out what it means to love God and ones fellow man, he was
constantly challenged by the religious order of the day with their
endless amounts of its religious scrupulosity.
Jesus came to reveal the true nature and character of his (our)
"Father." The Old Testament reveals two personalities running through
it, both claiming to be "Lord." It was the heart of Jesus to convey
to all, the true personality and "nature" of God.(1)
As today, the religious leaders of Jesus' day put emphasis on ones
personal, moral behavior. In the face of acts of unspeakable moral
failure, Jesus showed mercy and encouraged the offender in a less
destructive way of life. Consequently, he was labeled a "liberal"
by the religious establishment. What did push Jesus' button (and
St. Paul and others after him) was the misrepresentation of the
nature and character of God-by those who claimed to represent him.(2)
It is natural within the constituencies of the various world religions
to exalt and deify its founder. Often, religious "founders"-as enormously
spiritual people-were not preoccupied with the thought of themselves
and their place in history. Many people who insist that "Jesus is
God" often misrepresent him in their treatment of other people.
Jesus himself was very inclusive of just who could be considered
"God." The apostle John wrote of Jesus' thoughts on the matter:
The Jews said, "We're not stoning you for anything
good you did, but for what you said-this blasphemy of calling yourself
God." Jesus said, "I'm only quoting your inspired Scriptures, where
God said, 'I tell you-you are gods.' If God called your ancestors
'gods'-and Scripture doesn't lie-why do you yell, 'Blasphemer! Blasphemer!'
at the unique one the Father consecrated and sent into the world,
just because I said, 'I am the (a) son of God.'"
Probably Christians, more than any other religious group, have
sought to "prove" things about their religion's founder. This has
not upset Buddhists and Hindus, for example, because they have the
belief that truth is truth, is available to all, and becomes evident
in the experiences of the lives of all. There is the human tendency-a
psychological defense-to insist that only "our way" is the right
way. Jesus' disciples were not beyond this. One day they breathlessly
approached Jesus to "tell" on others not of their inner circle that
were casting out demons in Jesus' name. Jesus, recognizing the inclusive
nature of God, and recognizing that "God is a Spirit" (of a certain,
good nature and personality), had no problem with "outsiders" who
were doing the work of God. Irritated at the disciple's exclusivist
attitude, Jesus said,
"Don't stop him. No one can use my name
(nature) to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath
cut me down. If he is not an enemy, he's an ally. Why, anyone by
just giving you a cup of water in my name (nature) is on our side.
Count on it that God will notice."
It is not Jesus per se with whom those in other religions have
problem. The official, "Great Church" has insisted that, "to become
one of us-an 'insider'-you must believe certain incredible, hard
to believe things about God and Jesus. Much of this "conditional
acceptance" of "outsiders" has been based on a literal view of scripture,
a position that has led to endless amounts of scrupulosity and schism.
Scripture was written and to be read in another, healthier, way.
All people are created in the "image" of God, and have some of
the "light" of God within them (John 1:9). Any person may read scripture
subjectively, letting that inner nature and light of God interpret
and speak personally to them. Most often, that interpretation is
based on allegory and metaphor, which often provides a "more than"
literal view of scripture. But this hermeneutic is in bad taste
to those who love power and control. Priest craft and mediation
have become the "official" alternatives, leading to spiritual abuse,
religious wars and worse.
Often, the official church has thereby "hidden" the nature of God
and the purpose of Jesus from those not of the faith. And yet, in
spite of itself, the church has managed to convey to the world a
measure of hope-often provided by marginal members of that church.
Many liberal Christians-people who from time immemorial distance
themselves from this kind of crazy-making spiritual abuse-become
exhilarated at hearing the voice of God in the lives of those of
other religious traditions. "Outsiders" who prove by their lives
of love, forgiveness and compassion, have the nature of Jesus abiding
within! Many of these have not so much as heard the name "Jesus."
And those who have, perhaps have shunned that name due to all the
negative nuance associated with it. In the words of the St. John:
"Oh, dear children, don't let anyone deceive you about
this: if you are constantly doing what is good, it is because you
are good, even as He is."
God is apparently very liberal minded about those who are religious,
those having been born into different religious cultures: good is
good, in God's book. Christians need to realize how much they have
become acculturated within a dominant Christian culture.
And as for those who work evil, in or out of Christianity: "They
sin because they have never really known God" (1 John
The challenge to Christians who feel they have "good news" to give
to the world: by the silent witness of the life, by the kind impartation
of the word, reveal to others the character and nature of God:
Indeed, many a missionary has left home with the "gospel"
for foreign lands and strange religions--only to learn of the gospel
from the "heathen" they sought to convert.
"If I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself",
said Jesus. It's all about God and his nature: "The gospel speaks
of God as he is: it is concerned with himself and with him only."
(1)Both "Lords" or "spirits",
in the broadest sense, are God's servants. Oswald Chambers, speaking
of the spirit that drives the politics of holiness, claimed it is
one of "absolute moral perfection." The distinction in the personalities
of the two Lords is helpful in understanding the short-fused "Lord"
who whacked Uzzah for the minor infraction of steadying the ark,
and the duplicitous "Lord" that gave Abraham the unthinkable command
to kill his only son. Child sacrifice is alien to the nature of
God and was to be strictly forbidden within Israel. The personality
of the true "Lord" shines in the angelic statement: "Do not lay
your hand on the lad, or do anything to himů" (Gen. 5:12). It took
much time and history before it dawned on anyone that the nature
of God, in the strictest sense, is "harmless" (Hebrews 7:26). How
encouraging to us to know that we no longer have to makes excuses
for God's behavior.
(2)For example, Jesus' action
within the Temple during his last days on earth: The whole Temple
area was a "den of violent ones", considering the bloody, sacrificial
system in action at the time. Which "lord" or "spirit" inaugurated
such a ghastly system? That the true Spirit inaugurated this system
of works doesn't fit with Jesus' revelation of the "Father" and
his essential nature-that he is sensitive even about the demise
of a single sparrow. Jesus' angry reaction was to the institutional
(Temple) misrepresentation of the character of God.
Celebrated by child; en in Albania, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Bikina
Ease, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Lcuaclni, El
Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti,
Honduras, Kenya, Malawi, Nice; agile, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines,
Tanzania, logo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Christmas-December 25. Commemorates the birth of Jesus in a stable
Ash Wednesday- The first day of Lent, a 40-day season of fasting
in preparation for Easter.
Good Friday-. Commemorates the death by crucifixion of Jesus.
Easter-. Easter is a joyous holiday, commonly associated with bunnies
and colored eggs. But in fact, it is the most holy of Christian
sacred days, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus--with a resurrection
promise also to all who have ever lived or will live...