Following up on my conversation with my buddy Bill about my faith and Jesus, Bill texted me and hoped our discussion about the “person of Jesus” was meaningful (to me). Of course, it was meaningful, and I told Bill that. I also reminded him that I was intimately familiar with all of the doctrines he had discussed with me since I was raised Pentecostal from before I could speak, had been evangelical for decades, served in church leadership, taught a Christian fundamentals class at the Vineyard, taught Sunday school, was baptized and spoke in tongues. Bill replied that it’s not really about doctrine. He said he thought doctrine and other ancillary representations of it had hurt and wounded me over the years and suggested I take a fresh look at the “person of Jesus.”
What struck me is this is precisely what I have been doing. Because of the wounding, I have taken a fresh look at all of the doctrines, including the person of Jesus. The words “Who do you say that I am?” rattle around in my head all the time. Jesus is still a big part of my life, and I suspect always will be. Over two thousand years since his fleshly life ended, people still struggle with answering that question.
The church tells us it’s all about Jesus. Jesus is our ticket to heaven. All we have to do is “believe” in Jesus, and we’re in. Well, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? Does it mean that we believe he existed as a physical person? Does it mean we believe he is the Son of God? Does it mean we believe he died to save us from our sins? If we do believe that, is it enough to merely assent to that fact? Is belief enough or do we actually have to do something?
As I’ve re-examined Jesus’ words, I realize he never said all we have to do is believe in him. He spoke of doing. He said to take up our cross and follow him, daily. He talked about giving up our lives to save them. He told parables about people who paid lip service but didn’t do what was asked.
Matthew 21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 21:29 The boy answered, ‘I will not.’ But later he had a change of heart and went. 21:30The father went to the other son and said the same thing. This boy answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but did not go.21:31 Which of the two did his father’s will?”
As I have taken a fresh look at Jesus, here is what I see. The belief we are supposed to have is that God/Source, is our father/mother/creator, just like Jesus’. The Christ consciousness that Jesus demonstrated in fullness is available to all of us. Buddhists call this same thing Buddha nature. We all have this innate property because we are all part of the Source. What we are called to do is to live this to its fullest. In this world, that means “crucifying” our base nature that many refer to as the ego. To follow Jesus means to consciously allow the Christ consciousness to flow through us to be the hands and feet of God in this world. We are to make ourselves as pure a channel as we can be to bring the Love of God into the world. We can follow Jesus without ever having heard His story as long as we tap into the consciousness He demonstrated.
Christians talk a lot about salvation, as in us being saved from our sins. They emphasize the goal of accepting Jesus as our “personal Lord and savior.” Then we can rely on the work He has done. Wait a minute. That’s just the beginning. What about sanctification? What about the work of improving ourselves to become more like the man we claim to follow?
After I got beyond the notion that Jesus had done the work for me and that all there was left for me to do was wait to die and slide into heaven on his work, I realized it doesn’t work that way. My job is to improve my connection. As a Christian, I would pray when I needed something, or I’d say a rote prayer at night or when I was taking a meal. To spend time in daily prayer, really trying to make a connection to Source or my higher consciosness is something I didn’t consider. Now, I’m in meditation 25-30 minutes a day. I continually think about how I can be more “Christ-like” all throughout my day. When I look at other people, I try to see the Christ-nature in each one of them. Some have it masked better than others. But, I know it’s there in all of them. Now that I know Jesus didn’t do it all for me. I’m working on doing the heavy lifting that is necessary to become like Him.
I appreciate my talks with Bill. They prompt me to think deeply, and anything that makes me reflect is a good thing. I don’t want to leave the religion of my youth just because it hurt me. I know there are those who would like me to come back into the fold. I can’t see that happening though. I still follow Jesus, the way I understand Him to be and with I think is a broader perspective on “the person of Jesus.” I agree with Bill. It’s always a good idea to take a fresh look at the person of Jesus.
Brian, I feel the same way you do about the traditional beliefs I was brought up with in the Jewish religion. I am going to an Orthodox Jewish wedding in August that will trigger me unless I do “my work” in advance so that I can observe and stay detached.