Called to be Like Christ, not like Christians
Some may think I’m somehow radical because I embrace all faiths but in truth I embrace my Savior and follow his teachings in my own practice. In other words, as this poster from Zion House of Prayer states:
What does it mean to be like Christ? It means we should embrace his deepest teachings as well as his most simple of edicts: love God; and love your neighbor as you love yourself. When Jesus came as the Savior, he brought an entirely new set of teachings with him. A simpler and yet in many ways deeper way of living–one that encouraged his followers to look inward for guidance, and one that deemphasized the centrality and power of institutions. Jesus may have been here to fulfill the promises set forth by earlier prophets, but he did not abide by the dictates of close-minded and hypocritical spouters of orthodox doctrine. Jesus claimed only to obey the authority of He whom sent him–the Father, or the Lord God almighty. To this God and to this God alone was Jesus faithful, and to the Father alone did Jesus pledge his allegiance.
So where does that leave teachers like me, ones who want to reach everyone with a message of radical love, tolerance and acceptance? It leaves me in good stead on theological and philosophical grounds when I assert that I am obeying God and God alone. After all, Jesus never told his followers to obey other humans. He told them to watch the miracles and teachings he gave in his Father’s name, and he taught his disciples that they must die to the world here on earth in order to find eternal life. He told them that the kingdom of Heaven laid within each human heart or soul, and he directed us to look within for the map or compass Home.
Jesus brought new teachings. He was radical. He was revolutionary. And he was absolutely beautiful. I hold his teachings close to my heart at all times. I embrace the truth that he was the son of God, living in a human shell as the Savior for humans of his time period. I believe he was the Messiah . . . but I do not believe, as standard Christian doctrine teaches, that Jesus was actually God. Indeed, while Jesus spoke of unity and said that the Father was in him just as he was in the Father, he also said that he was in all of us, just as we were in him–in other words, he was speaking metaphorically. Whenever Jesus spoke plainly, he stated simply that he was God’s son. No more–and no less.
Speaking of doctrines like the trinity, I was asked a question by a friend today that pointed out to me the importance of abandoning sometimes corrosive, confusing or misleading dogmas. The friend wrote:
All well and good and morally uplifting. But I would ask all who seek to be like Christ one question, “Do you hate your mother and father?” If you answer “No” to this, then you cannot be a true follower of Christ, For He specifically says (Luke 14.26) you cannot be a disciple of His, unless you hate your parents.
How do Christians explain this, or reconcile it with the Commandment directing you to honour your parents?
I’m puzzled by these inconsistencies, and don’t think they should be glossed over.
This friend of mine is a good soul, just trying to make sense of what he’s been taught. I wrote back the following note:
When you read the scriptures, you need to read it with your soul directing you. Intuit what the words mean with the Holy Spirit or the light within you helping you understand this: when Jesus said you should hate your mother and father, Jesus was exaggerating. He was making a point that the true family you should hold close to you is the one that you choose to recognize as best resembling the kingdom of heaven. And to his close disciples, he was basically saying that allegiance to one’s heavenly family comes before allegiance to birth family. Any servant of the Lord would probably agree that serving God comes before serving one’s family.
Jesus was exaggerating when he said one must hate one’s parents. Jesus exaggerated or spoke in metaphors very often. Furthermore, Jesus was acting, as he often did, in the tradition of other Jewish prophets when he delivered hard teachings to his followers. For example, when Elijah is ready to hand the Robe that Elijah as the leading prophet wore to Elisha, Elijah yelled at Elisha. In 1 Kings 19:19-21, appears the following:
So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”
So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.
In other words, Elijah tells Elisha to follow him into service to the Lord with single minded devotion. In effect, Elijah was telling Elisha to treat his parents in a way that almost seems horrible . . . until you realize that Elijah was teaching Elisha how a true prophet must act: with extreme and complete devotion to God. Jesus says the same thing to his disciples. They need to make a hard choice–serving, or remaining family men–but this is a choice offered to contemporaneous followers of Jesus, rather than a choice we are really faced with 2,000 years after the death of the Savior. We can love Jesus and adore his Father . . . and also be good husbands and wives while on earth.
If Elijah were alive today, I imagine he would be unwilling or unable to obey the edicts passed by popes, priests, and other earthly servants of the Lord. I also imagine that if Jesus walked and talked among us, he would be more likely to be building a new church than worshiping blindly at a preexisting Catholic or Protestant church. Jesus was not looking to other humans for answers. He was looking to his Father alone for instructions.
Like other teachers who look inward and try to find spiritual answers by going directly to God, I simply cannot embrace all the dogma of institutions built in the name of the Savior. I want to be like Jesus–not like other Christians.
If this makes me a radical then I’ll just go sit beside the most radical of all prior teachers and with the Savior at my side, I’ll wait for the world of materiality to end. I’ll sit with Jesus and I’ll listen to the Father and with both of them at my side, I’ll work on building the kingdom of heaven within me. Someday, after I go Home, hopefully I’ll sit with the Father too and we will be radicals in love. I hope this is true for all of you as well.
Well you little radical you! Keep it up. I am loving it!
LOL! Thank you so much Janet 🙂
I love this as it exactly how I believe. Just last night I was talking with a friend in recovery who I am mentoring about living radical love, forgiveness and praying for those who hurt us. I too am a radical? Thank you for such a beautiful message!
Awww thank you so much Debi! I like that concept of radical forgiveness. I know it can be hard, but it’s rewarding too–the forgiving seems to set you free, right? Good on you my friend!
The very definition of being a Christian is to follow the teachings of Christ, How can you come along and preach the opposite???
If you would take the time to read the blog post you’re commenting on, I think you’d see that I said we should follow Jesus (rather than other Christians, or institutions formed in the name of Christ well after he left this earth). I said that following Jesus means going directly to the source, rather than looking to human institutions when those institutions often misinterpret the teachings of the Savior. Jesus was not a big fan of existing institutions either. He taught that the key Home existed within each one of us, and he also said that those who prance around in their fancy robes often don’t have their followers’ best interests at heart.