Tag Archives: Jesus

A Topic of Interest to Men: When Will God Man-infest?

The possibilities of how God will resolve the tendency of male human beings to resist surrendering to Divine Authority while preferring to assert their own ego’s impotent but prideful authority are numerous, perhaps infinite.  So, if you don’t like the ideas I offer here, please don’t fret.  Make up your own alternative solution.  If you use your imagination to listen intently to the Spirit that is always sharing wisdom and truth about love within your heart, you’ll find your own story to tell of how God will with men indwell.

My idea is based on looking at things oddly.  For example, most people have interpreted the fact that Jesus came into the world as a male as indicating that God favors men over women. Many interpretations of sacred teachings from many paths of faith have indulged in this same kind of error to justify male dominance of human societies (and, not surprisingly, to justify reserving to men the role of interpreting sacred scriptures as extra protection against loss of male privileges). I interpret the fact of Jesus’ human maleness differently.  I see in that fact a God who tackles the most challenging, stubborn problems head on and does not avoid them.  I see a God who seeks to lift the whole of the human race out of our attachment not to sin but to suffering by converting traditionally aggressive members of the race into superlative healers of all forms of harm.  We’ve been suffering escalating pain for so many millennia that we are psychologically bonded to suffering as if it is part of our identity.  Unless we’re presented with a clear alternative we cannot even imagine living without suffering. The best we can imagine is avoiding as much suffering personally as we can avoid while shifting suffering onto other people’s plates and off of ours.  We cannot imagine an end to suffering for everyone.

Yet, God can imagine it.  In fact, God wills an end to suffering for everyone and has set a plan in motion to bring that end into reality here on Earth.  We might call it God’s totally (that is, free) Affordable Care Act or Universal Healthcare policy.  God’s plan involves sharing God’s immunity to harm and suffering with us, all of us.  To set the Divine Plan in motion, he introduced an example of a starkly clarifying alternative into the human experience that stands in complete contrast to the human race’s normal experience.  That contrast is Jesus, not a contrast because he’s God while we are not but a contrast because he’s totally one with the human race while refusing to be a clone or copy of stereotypical maleness as defined by any human culture.  Witness, for example, that unlike men in most cultures, Jesus did not try to prove his masculinity by fathering children or prove his superiority by running roughshod over others.  Instead he showed that we are all God’s children and demonstrated what that looks like.  He exercised his power not to show himself off as superior but to show us all upward to God as our unconditionally loving Superior Parent.

Normally, male humans are more likely to inflict physical pain and suffering on others than women are. Because men are, on average, larger bodied than women, they tend to cause more pain, sometimes out of awkwardness towards smaller bodied humans such as women, children and smaller bodied men and sometimes quite intentionally to try to demonstrate external superiority while internally (in their secret heart of hearts) feeling quite the opposite in their undisclosed feelings of inferiority. Jesus confronted male stereotypes of social superiority by showing what true superiority on divine terms looks and acts like and teaching that all men as well as women and children have equal opportunity to access the same Diving Power.  God is an equal opportunity deployer of Divine Power, so Jesus says.

In human cultures, women are more likely to be involved in comforting the “little ones” and those who suffer and trying to relieve pain and suffering if they can.  Most human cultures distinguish masculinity and femininity based on factors like softness, gentleness, compassion and cooperation.  In most cultures women are permitted to be softer, gentler and more compassionate and cooperative than men.  Social training reinforced by rewards of social approval for successfully conforming to stereotypes shapes men into inflictors of pain because socially aggressive males are rated as more manly than less socially aggressive ones.  Most societies reserve derogatory names like “wimp,” “sissy” and “coward” for those boys and men who are reluctant to engage in aggressive behaviors and shy away from inflicting or experiencing pain.  To be a “real man” means to inflict and endure pain without flinching – and without crying.

To counteract this social prejudice in favor of casting men as sources of pain and suffering, God decided that the expression God would use to exemplify Divine Love and Grace in human form had to be a male.  God chose the least likely candidate through whom to express Divine Grace and Mercy – a man.  Had God chosen a woman to reveal Divine Qualities and Power, the human race would not have been so shocked.  It had to be a man through whom God manifested the Divine as a Supremely Gentle Nurturer and Healer.  So, in the man Jesus, God man-infected the human body to start the ball rolling. God infected Jesus with the power to not only “do no harm” but also to heal all harm that had already occurred.  In doing so, God challenged the human race to think differently at the core of our assumptions and social constructs about issues like gender identity and stereotypes of masculinity and femininity.  He emphasized the absurdity of casting God as a stereotypical male figure as if God has a human body.  (Given God’s lack of a body with sexual traits, God’s qualities are more likely to be associated with androgyny than with either extreme of masculinity or femininity.)

Since being confronted by the Jesus model of manhood, men have variously faced and/or avoided the challenge of being like Jesus in all of his qualities and letting go of all socially reinforced but nevertheless incompatible ideas about what it means to be a man.  That challenge goes right to the heart of social assumptions that are rooted in the greater size and physical strength of the average man’s body in comparison to women’s bodies and in the fact of penetration by men to accomplish the act of sexual reproduction.  Women by physical nature and reproductive function are defined by their bodies as softer, smaller and more receptive of penetration than a source of penetration. When men identify with their bodies’ traits and functions, they are led away from identifying with the process of submitting or surrendering their lives to God in service according to God’s will.  Yet, the opportunity of men to serve God awaits in our allowing God to be in charge and allowing God to plant seeds of inspiration to gestate and come into fullness of time through male lives.  Images like being the Bride of Christ simply offend the socially reinforced standards for being a “real man.”

The ego, not exclusively a male tradition but prevalent throughout the human race, can be seen as a set of defenses against the truth of God’s plan to call us back home as Divine Children.  In 12-step programs, it is said that EGO stands for “edging God out.”  Jesus demonstrated how to allow God to edge back into our lives by opening our hearts and minds to the transforming power of the Spirit of Truth and Love that Jesus promised would be ever present with us to guide and comfort us.  Often this Spirit is cast as feminine in nature.  Imagine how contrary to a male’s upbringing it may be to allow a feminine power to be in charge and to enter into the depth of his being to create new life!  I believe that such a total reversal of male functions is a major obstacle for men in our quest for experiences of God.  We simply desire to be in charge and have a hard time admitting that God already is in charge.  Let us ponder in our hearts the reality of the Spirit’s abiding presence there and keep things simple by accepting as truth what is already true.

As I said at the beginning, if you don’t like my ideas, please feel free to contemplate at length to come up with ones of your own.  It’s worth our weight in gold to come forth as gold after suffering as Job suffered.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Going Beyond Out of Our Way

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”  T. S. Eliot

When you go out of your way to care for another person, is it possible to go too far?  How might you know that “too far” is?  If it’s inconvenient to go out of your way for another person, is convenience the limit and inconvenience where you draw the line?  What is it OK to risk when you go out of your way for another person and what is too much to risk?  Let’s agree that love calls us to take risks in caring for others. Let’s agree that it’s not always convenient to care for another person as love calls us to care and that there will be times when it’s right in love’s eyes to go beyond convenience and extend ourselves into come degree of inconvenience.

Let’s examine the limit to which love calls us to go and acknowledge love’s power to call us to go farther than we might at first imagine.  I suggest that Eliot was correct to note that taking the “risk of going too far” is the only way you or I will discover how far love goes and is ready, willing and able to take us along with it.  In my investigation of love’s limitless nature, I’ve become a radical explorer of the nature of love.  I confess it.  Don’t expect me to argue in favor of setting limits on love’s expression in your life or mine.  I genuinely believe that our tendency to set such limits is precisely why the modern world has become as bogged down in fear, violence and suffering as we have.  Think about it.  If it’s true, as John wrote, that God is love (God = Love, for math fans), then any practice of setting limits on love is the same as setting limits on God.  How is that possible?

How could you or I set a limit on God?  It’s actually quite simple.  We can set a limit on God because God gave us the power to do so.  God gave us free will.  Free will gives us the power to choose between setting God (love) free to be fully expressed in our lives and in the lives of others or setting limits on that expression.  God has already chosen to express the Divine Power of Life and Love in and through your life and mine as fully as we’ll allow.  His/Her choice is made in Eternity and stands forever.  Our choices are made in the realm of Time and Space and can be made, changed and changed again until we discover a choice we never want to change.  The tendency in the modern world, where material values are given greater influence than spiritual ones, is to allow our fears to set limits on the influx and outpouring of love throughout our life experiences.  Our fears set very restricted limits to keep us feeling “safe” within our familiar territories.  In fact, to make sure we’re feeling safe, our fears tend to gradually shrink the territories within which we are willing to take risks and prevent us from even thinking about “going too far.” Thus it is by fear’s logic we never come close to discovering how far we can go if we were to exercise more courage.

In our ego-trained, fear-based orientation to the modern world, we’ve been taught to take a risk that I believe is now haunting us.  We’ve been taught to take the risk of setting severe limits on God and the expression of Divine Love.  We’ve been taking that risk for so many generations that it is now the social norm and heavily reinforced by social approval.  It’s unlikely that anyone told you or me that we were being taught to place limits on God (Love). The ego is not that honest in its dealings with us.  It’s actually quite deceptive and likely to claim that we are being as loving as we need to be or even can be when we do only what is socially approved of.  It’s likely to teach us to believe that social approval sets the proper limit on love that keeps us safe from going too far.  Too far where?  In the ego’s frame of reference, too far out of bounds to risk being thought of as foolish and naïve and subjected to ridicule.  Too far out of bounds that we risk losing the approval of those whose opinions of us we value most.  Too far out of bounds that we risk being hurt and feeling deeply in our hearts in ways we’ve been taught to avoid.  Yet, suppose you or I were to reverse the risk ratio and take the risk of defying social approval and exploring beyond conventional definitions and expressions of love.  Might we encounter more of God and Love “out beyond social norms?”  Might we enter into the realm of mystic experiences to which Rumi referred when he said:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.  I will meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make any sense.”

Damn these unconventional poets!  Why don’t just they leave us alone?  I suggest that they are heaven sent. I suggest that they don’t leave us alone precisely because God knows that “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18 NIV)  Poets, lyricists, writers of fiction, composers, dancers, choreographers, painters, sculptors and other artists stir our hearts to take second looks at what the ego has taught us and encourage us to consider changing decisions we might have thought were unchangeable.  Artists express the divine grace that may soften our hearts and allow us to rethink a “conclusion I concluded long ago.” (A Puzzlement from The King and I)

As a believer in Jesus, I tend to take a look at what his teachings by word, deed and lifestyle say about issues that haunt me.  As I realized that decisions I had made under the influence of ego-based teachings were haunting me, I gradually awoke to the reality that Jesus did not usually agree with the ego’s teachings – if ever he did!  He was definitely an unconventional person.  He did not seem to worry much about social approval, winning popularity contests or catering to the social elites of his day.  He was not running for office or trying to win a job or a life-partner’s attention and affections.  He was focused on identifying God’s will in all things and then taking the risk of going too far – at least in the eyes of others.  Gradually Jesus’ ideas, actions and model of lifestyle came to influence me more and more.  To emulate him I began to shed the common excuses given for not going too far.  Some said he was God and, since the rest of us are not God, then of course we cannot go as far as Jesus went in caring about others.  He intentionally hung out with folks others did not approve of and avoided at all costs. He seemed to not realize that they were of a different class and (supposedly) looked down upon by God. Jesus went so far as to wind up hanging on a cross as a vilified criminal and endured shame, pain and other unsavory features of human life on his way to death.  He could have avoided all that.  But would he have honored God and Divine Love if he had?  How could he demonstrate how far we can go if he had not gone beyond death to return as an expression of the Eternal?

Is it true that Jesus was so different from you or me that we can excuse ourselves from taking the risk of going too far in following in his footsteps?  What if he were actually the same as you and I? Suppose whatever identity with God Jesus had and has we have too? Suppose the fact that we’ve avoided going too far is actually the only reason we don’t know how identified with God we are!  Suppose that when Jesus prayed that his followers would know oneness with God as he knew oneness (John 17: 20-23) that he meant precisely that and that his prayers are answered once we quit setting limits on God (Love). Might God be ready, willing and able to show us our oneness with the Divine once we say “Yes, here I am, send me?”  Are we afraid to be sent “too far” and never come back to where we’ve been?  Are we afraid that an encounter with God will change our outlook on life and our choices forever?  The ego is afraid of that outcome.  We need not be.  In our heart of hearts we are hungering for such an outcome.

Radical nonconformity to the ways of the world includes taking the risk of going too far in the ego’s eyes.  Yet it also opens the door to risking that Love will flood in and never stop sweeping us away into greater and greater adventures as well as ever increasing capacity to share Divine Love with others.  Might our hunger for adventure and love never be truly satisfied until we take this risk?

How radical is love as Jesus’ followers believe it to be?  Let’s check out the oft-quoted follower whose writings appear in the Bible as letters written by Paul.  Let’s quote him not for ideas he clung to about how to set limits on God’s Divine will but for ideas about “going too far” in embracing God’s will.

Here is how this eloquent writer spoke about love:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. I f I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-10 NIV)

Regardless of how eloquently Paul spoke or wrote, he admitted that words lacking in love’s true essence were hollow, pointless and powerless.  He acknowledged that all of the partial understandings he might gain about the truth about love would dissolve in the presence of “completeness” or wholeness perfected by God.  Paul took the risk of going too far in following Jesus beyond Paul’s (Saul’s) previous life of social conformity and of meeting the expectations of those higher up the ladder in his religious institution.  His daring risk-taking brought him into conflict with the very authority figures he’d once tried so hard to please.  He became an outsider to the social club within which, earlier in his adult career life, he’d worked so hard to qualify for membership.  Traditionalists scorned him as a maverick who’d lost his way instead of honoring him as a master student of their long-awaited Messiah’s Most Excellent Way.

Today many traditionalists selectively quote Paul’s writings when he espoused the preservation of beliefs and practices prevalent in his day, beliefs and practices he’d not yet realized were interfering with the evolution-revolution Jesus had set in motion.  Yet, it remains worthwhile to glean wisdom and guidance from Paul’s experiences in his transformation from Saul who had once persecuted followers of Jesus into Paul who himself followed Jesus.  The man who had persecuted became one of those he’d previously persecuted.  Pretty radical change of heart and mind!

How did Paul address this issue of radical nonconformity in going too far?  He addressed it directly by writing:  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)  It’s instructive that Paul tied “going too far” with demonstrating God’s will.  Might that be the point of your life as well as mine?  Each of us in our own way may have the divine opportunity to prove that God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” is to share Divine Love for all of us with all of us, without exception or exclusion no matter how much pressure socially conformist thinkers place upon the question of the limits of God’s love.  If God loves the previously-hidden but now more-boldly-emerging nonconformist maverick in each of us, then going too far to be true to ourselves as children of God is not possible.  Even the sky sets no limit on how far we can discover we can go – if only we let go and let God be God as we let ourselves go far afield beyond the limits of social approval to belong exclusively to God.

The sky does not set limits.  It invites eagles to soar and not have to seek safety near the ground.  Love likewise invites us to soar to the heights above life’s storm clouds and risk having gone too far.  Our wings will not melt off, for they are not attached with wax.  They sprout from within the energy field of the divine love that radiates through us as it lifts us ever nearer to the heights of heaven.  Some call this falling upward.

© Art Nicol 2015

Cancer in the Body of Believers in Jesus

Cancer begins as a few cells rapidly multiply without the purpose-driven orderly structure that controls the growth of healthy cells elsewhere in the body.  These rapidly multiplying, disorderly cancer cells form masses of tissue we call “tumors” and may eventually spread throughout the body to generate out-of-control cell-production that proves contrary to the purpose of the host organism.  Once the cancerous cells populate too much of the host organism, death looms as the original life-purpose of the organism is lost amid the disorderly purposelessness of the cancer cells.   Cancer is characterized by a disconnect between the main organism’s life-oriented purpose and the process of cell production and tissue regeneration.  Some people say that cancerous tumors “grow.”  But if the term “growth” applies only to orderly cell production that aligns with the life-orientation and purpose of the main, overarching organism then cancerous tissues do not grow.  They merely expand in a disorderly fashion that mimics growth but does not contribute to life.  Once the main organism’s health declines enough to bring about death, even the cancer cells die. They have sabotaged their host to their own detriment.

If Jesus’ institutionalized Church is Christ’s body of believers on Earth then what might be the cancer that is causing the Church’s decline and bringing the body of believers nearer and nearer to disintegration and ultimately death?  I suggest that the cancer can be spotted in every idea and resulting practice that disconnects the Church from the life-oriented purpose God gave it through Jesus.  Ideas and practices not in alignment with the God-given purpose of the Church are generating cancerous cell-production throughout the Church that mimics growth but does not contribute to the life of the Church as God defines that life.  These forms of illusory “growth” are sabotaging the Church and contributing not to its life but rather to its decline.

I believe that God is working through paths of faith other than the one associated with Jesus. Be that as it may, I’m devoted to the path of faith along which Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to lead all who believe in him.  As a believer in Jesus, I seek to hear the leading of the Spirit within my heart and to heed its guidance and honor the wisdom it transmits to faith-oriented believers in Jesus.  I accept without qualification Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.  John 16:13.  That is why this article is devoted to spotting the cancerous ideas and practices at work within Christ’s Church rather than focused upon the possible shortcomings of other paths of faith.  Until the Church of Jesus Christ has submitted itself to healing of all cancerous ideas and practices at work within it, it is in no position to point out the possible ills of other paths of faith. The Church must allow the Holy Spirit to point out and remove logs from its own eyes before it tries to point out splinters in the vision of other paths of faith.

To whatever extent any other path of faith may be failing to adhere to God’s purpose and plan for that path of faith, it is the responsibility of faithful adherents to that path to assess those shortcomings and take steps to rectify them from within the borders of that faith as a follower of that faith. Within the body of believers in Jesus we have our hands full addressing the ills of Christ’s institutionalized Church and cannot afford to cast our eyes upon other religions or paths of faith until we’ve resolved all of our own issues between us and God.  That is to say that the fact that I take up the task of identifying some of the Church’s blind spots does not imply that there are none present in other paths of faith.  It means only that I adhere to the principle of the Fourth Step of the 12-steps and suggest that believers in Jesus must focus on taking our own inventories and repent of our own ill-conceived ideas and sabotaging practices that have led to the decline of the Church at large. Once we’ve humbly submitted to the Holy Spirit’s removal of the logs from our own eyes, we can seek God’s guidance about what to do next with our clarified vision.  In the meantime, to honor Jesus as the head of our body of believers, we need to refrain from violating his principle of not judging others.

In this article I do not pretend to present an exhaustive list of the ideas and practices rampant within Christ’s Church that are proving to be cancerous.  I intend here only to highlight a few so as to contribute to a dialogue within the Church that may lead the Church, its leaders and its members of all stripes and flavors to humility, repentance and healing.  I believe that the process God calls us to engage in is akin to the repentance that Jonah’s message to Nineveh invoked.  Ideas and practices not aligned with God’s holy purpose for the body of believers in Jesus are “wickedness” (failure to adhere to holiness) in the eyes of God whether or not they qualify as “wicked” under popular definitions of the populace at large. If God’s people who are called by His name desire with all their hearts to see the world healed of all forms of violence and oppression and the resulting harm, we must heed God’s definition of “wickedness” in order to humble ourselves before God and participate fully in the conditions that permit healing to flow from God unlimitedly.

In saying that I have identified a few of the Church’s misalignments with Jesus’ directions to his followers is not to say that I mention them in order of significance or priority or have cited the most important ones.  To contribute to the dialogue about Church-wide humility, repentance and healing, I cite only these for now:

  1. The error of judging people of other faiths, as mentioned above. We are not qualified to assess from beyond the borders of any other path of faith how that path of faith is best lived. That is an internal affair as to which responsibility rests with those who claim that path of faith
  2.  The error of citing quantifiable statistics as signs of growth while measures of quality are neglected. When quantity is valued over quality, the Church has dropped the ball that Jesus handed off to the Church. Throughout the Scriptures referenced by Jesus and the Church are many passages indicating that God is more concerned about the quality of life people are experiencing than about the quantity of people who are claiming to believe in Him. God has often preferred to rely upon a few people to accomplish His goals than to rely upon great numbers to prove His significance. In short, God is not concerned with social approval ratings as if God is a politician or Earthly monarch. God does not put His mind upon the things of man. God puts His mind upon the things of God whether or not humankind approves of God’s values, ideas or priorities. For the Church to express God’s orientation, the Church will have to stop catering to social approval, no longer seek to amass quantities of members or money and focus on God’s values, ideas and priorities. To measure the success of the Church by numbers is to measure by the same measurements attributed to newly released movies or TV shows. Audience ratings are not symptoms of the health of the Church except to the extent that high popularity may be a symptom of poor health. Ratings measure the cancerous illusory “growth” and call it admirable. Not so in God’s eyes.
  3. The error of measuring the quality of a believer’s faithfulness to Jesus by the financial prosperity or social popularity of his or her lifestyle. By his example, Jesus revealed the true measures of a believer’s life while he was on Earth. He was neither financially prosperous nor popular. In fact, he allowed himself to walk through life with few possessions and admonished his followers to do likewise. He traveled light but he did not travel far. He remained focused on a relatively small territory of personal concern rather than roam throughout the wider territory using means of transportation then available to him. Today the industrial/technological world has developed means of transportation that enable humans to travel the globe. The Internet empowers our minds to travel everywhere at any time. The practice of traveling widely is promoted by commercialism and mass media as “good.” Good for what? Good for profit-making by purveyors of travel-related services, including the marketing industry. Good for allowing those with wealth to congregate as mutual admirers around the globe and fancy themselves to be participants in a diversely multicultural world when in fact all they are doing is sharing their escapist activities and self-indulgences with other members of their economic class while remaining indifferent to the plight of other classes. I suggest that God disagrees with the standards of the world on this point and prefers that believers focus on local concerns in-depth, moving among all economic classes and other indices of human diversity as Jesus did, rather than spread themselves so thin as to have little significant, long-term impact on anything anywhere. Jesus impacted the lives he touched in significant, life-transforming ways (called “miracles”) and predicted that those who were his true disciples would do likewise, even having greater significance and impact than he had. Jesus was able to perform miracles because he developed relationships locally and allowed the least of these in his locality to have access to him personally. Although he participated in discussions with elites and allowed himself to be interviewed from time to time by representatives of the media of his day, he did not make a priority of doing so. Instead he remained directly accessible to the masses and most importantly to individuals who separated themselves from the masses to approach him one on one. In interacting with Jesus’ energy personally people were brought to faith and offered opportunities to act upon their faith to receive miracles of healing. The Church’s mass-media-influenced values and priorities today turn Jesus’ values and priorities upside down.
  4. The error of catering to worldly powers rather than serving those that worldly powers look down upon, exploit and oppress. The Church has become an apologist for those who wield social power instead of being an advocate for those the powerful disdain. Nowhere in Jesus’ model of life to which he called his disciples did he serve in the role of sycophant to the elites or aristocrats of his time. Moses set captives free. Jesus set captives free. For the Church now to cater to those who hold powerless people in captivity is an anathema to the Father who loves all of us. The modern world is awash with captives of all kinds. Many workers around the world are held captive in one way or another by their employment’s meager returns and harsh conditions. The worldwide trade in sex-for-money in all its forms imprisons participants on all sides of these transactions within walls of secrecy and shame. To help build prisons and justify their existence rather than to visit prisoners and help them never to return to prison ignores one of Jesus’ most strident quality control standards for his followers. To fail to invest its all in helping the least of these to take up lifestyles of freedom and no longer risk going to prison, being homeless or exploited or going without the necessities of life, including personal dignity and the capacity to provide for one’s children, indicts the modern Church.

Christians believe that God’s nature and priorities were expressed in a physical body through Jesus and that Jesus intends the Church as an institution to continue to express God’s nature and priorities.  After starting out so well in Jesus’ life, it may be hard to understand how Christianity drifted so far afield from the truth he promised would set us free.  But it’s vital that we admit the drift and correct the errors if ever we want to allow the truth to set us free from mistakes humans made in the past.  Self-examination, repentance, correction of errors and granting and receiving of forgiveness are not the ego’s talents because these disciplines to which Jesus calls us are expedited by humility and resisted by pride.  So long as spokespersons for Jesus filter their information through the ego and water down their ideas and their experiences – their principles and their practices – to suit their egos no significant correction will occur and the power of forgiveness, once so radically illustrated by Jesus, will remain stillborn.

It is essential to rise free of and beyond the ego to correct the errors that the ego has so diligently preserved.  Overcoming the ego is what the passages in Chapter 3 of Revelations beginning with “He who overcomes shall” refer to.  By the power of diligent self-examination, change of mind and forgiveness of errors, we can join together to resurrect the Church from the tomb into which popular opinion has shoved it by crying out for the crucifixion, censorship and silence of minority members of the Church who have called the Church to account for its harm.  It is a mistake to focus on errors as guilt-and-shame-ladened “sins.”  To encrust our errors with barnacles of guilt and shame only makes them all the more difficult to acknowledge and shed.  Let’s stop adding to the difficulties of the task of resurrecting the Church and simply let Jesus call us forth from the grave as he once summonsed Lazarus, as a friend he missed and wanted to see alive again.  We are each Jesus’ friend, no matter how far we may have gone astray.  He has not forsaken us.  We need no longer forsake him.  By God’s grace, we have the power to redeem our error-prone lives and live lives renewed by forgiveness and mercy and overflowing with liberty and justice for all.

The Church’s healing from spiritual cancer awaits us as individuals who accept healing on behalf of the whole.  The healing begins one by one and gains momentum as the healed ones gather as a healed body of believers.  Healed twos become healed threes, fours and so forth until the heart-count becomes too numerous to quantify.  There is no need to count because once we are healed we are all one.  When Jesus calls you to join the healing movement by submitting yourself to its heart-cleansing flow, remember that you as an individual do not need the permission of anyone else to participate in the healing. All you need to do to respond to Jesus’ call to be healed is to declare with all your heart, mind, body and soul, “I can, sir,” in the face of the Church’s cancer.  As we each do our part as Jesus did, God will do the rest.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

While the Unrepentant Church Defies Jesus’ Authority Believers Can Still Be Faithful Followers

Despite the best efforts of teachers of divisive doctrine who have risen to falsely represent Jesus throughout the centuries since Jesus walked the earth, Jesus continues to this day to espouse the same all-inclusive, non-divisive plan for building the Kingdom of God on earth that he announced originally.  He foresaw what was necessary and put it into motion. He has not changed his mind.  To carry out his plan it is his followers (“us”) who need to change our minds from being faithful to the Church in some Church-institutionalized format to being faithful to Jesus in his non-institutionalized format. Anyone who seeks to modify Jesus’ plan simply is defying his authority and failing to acknowledge him as Lord as well as Savior.

Many have been the modifiers and defiers in the time since Emperor Constantine first declared himself to be a believer in Jesus and insisted that leaders of the Church defy Jesus’ authority and instead knuckle under to the Roman Emperor’s authority.  The first council of Church fathers who gathered by Emperor Constantine’s command in 325 CE at Nicaea formulated a conformist creed that sought to impose on all believers a uniform set of beliefs akin to the uniformity of thinking Caesar demanded of his subjects.  In publishing this creed, the Church fathers adopted the political pattern of the Roman Empire and rendered unto Caesar what was God’s.  From this centuries-old error the Church has not yet repented nor recovered. The Church remains a monument to institutionalized cowardice-induced error, a whitewashed sepulcher filled with dead men’s boneheaded ideas instead of the light of Christ.  Until Church leaders humble themselves before Jesus as the only head of the Church, believers have the option of acknowledging Jesus as Lord independent of the failure of Church leadership to do so.

Since 325 CE, Church leaders have continued to adopt Caesar’s pattern of political oppression and repress all other voices of diversity and disagreement within the body of believers. Each fragment of the Church designated different voices to repress but all repress some voices to make repression and censorship their universally accepted norm.  In ancient times, those who did not adopt the Nicaean Creed or disagreed with the conformist Church fathers suffered and were silenced by the Church.  Caesar lacked the capacity to tolerate open dialogue about the distribution of power among men and about the purposes of power when wielded by men (let alone by women!).  Although Jesus cautioned against seeking power over others and advised that the greatest in the Kingdom would humble themselves to serve others as he had done, Caesar demanded absolute authority over others and claimed to be a god.  Caesar was in no way servant of anyone.  The Church fathers who conspired together to appease Caesar bowed to his claims and substituted him for Jesus and God within the Church.  By doing so, Church leaders subservient not to Jesus but to Caesar abandoned their responsibility for teaching believers how to share and wield God’s power of love in the best interests of the human race as stewards of God’s power and servants of God’s people.  To hide this blasphemy from common people who believed in Jesus, the Church fathers assumed the role of the Holy Spirit and like blind men led their congregations downward and stray into ditches rather than allow the Holy Spirit to lead them upward in God’s way into all truth.  In this manner, truth became the enemy of the Church fathers.  Truth became unknown to any but the most daring members of the congregations and to those who fled into regions beyond the reach of Church authority.

Those who dared to listen to the Holy Spirit and not limit their thinking to ideas authorized by the Church fathers, disagreed with the Church fathers’ politically expedient and cowardly positions. The Church branded them as “heretics” for sharing ideas of leadership in the direction the Holy Spirit led.  That label was accurate, because “heretic” means “one who thinks for himself” instead of knuckling under to false leaders.  However, the Church fathers added another element to that definition by declaring that one who thinks for himself or herself apart from the Church fathers – especially anyone who heard the Spirit accurately as revealing the errors of the Church Fathers – was guilty of offending God, as if offending them and Caesar automatically equated to offending God.  And they took another step in declaring that anyone whom they declared offended God could not be forgiven even by a gracious, forgiving God and had to be punished severely, ultimately put to death if he or she were unwilling to be silenced in any other way.

In taking these regressive steps in abusing their roles as leaders, Church fathers took upon themselves the role of declaring who offended God and what consequences the offenders they identified should suffer.  Their pattern was not Jesus’ pattern of forgiveness and reconciliation but was instead the pattern of Judaism, the Old Testament Jehovah and the New Testament Caesar – a pattern of unforgiveness and retribution.  This was the very pattern that had led Jewish leaders to conspire with Roman leaders to crucify Jesus.  When Jesus’ pattern of forgiveness and peace among men did not suit their political ends and threatened to be inconvenient for those who preferred to appease Caesar to preserve their comfortable lifestyles as Caesar’s cronies, the Church fathers dispensed with Jesus as an authority figure in the Church and substituted themselves in his place.  In this manner, the Church fathers insured that believers would be conformed to the world Caesar wanted to rule over and not be transformed by a renewal of their minds.  And they insured that believers who conformed to the world about prove the popularity of the polluted and polluting will of Caesar and relegate to obscurity the perfect and perfecting will of God.  That is why Caesar’s will that we be as unholy, selfish, arrogant and ignorant of love as ego is has long prevailed in the world despite Jesus’ will that we all become holy as God is holy.  If the Church as spokesperson for Jesus will not speak up honestly in his behalf, how will the truth of Jesus’ living presence on Earth be shared?  It will be shared only as the Holy Spirit whispers in the hearts of those who doubt the validity of the Church’s stands and confirms their doubts about the Church.  Ironically doubters of Church authority now have the best chance of learning the truth that sets us free.

Thus it came to be that the Church was indeed founded upon the example of Peter who denied Jesus when his personal safety was threatened.  When Roman persecution threatened the safety of Church leaders, they ran for protection under the cover of conformity to Caesar’s demands.  Cowardice rather than courage became the Church’s norm in the face of opportunities to stand up to injustices generated by abuse of power.  With rare exceptions such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s standing up to Hitler, modern Church leaders adhere to the ancient norm of supposedly benign cowardice today. Modern politics models itself after Roman intolerance for courageous freedom of thought and expression and the Church knuckles under as if God were powerless in comparison to popular opinion.  Church leaders justify their cowardice as necessary to keep the collection baskets full, their salaries fully funded and attendance numbers high.  They are willing to betray Jesus and those who look to them for trustworthy spiritual guidance in order to maintain their opportunities to rub shoulders with the rich and famous and collect retirement checks at the end of their illustrious careers as cowardly frauds.

Almost 1700 years have passed since the Nicaean Creed was first published and imposed as the conformist thought system of the Church.  Subsequent councils have revised the Church’s creeds but have not repudiated the Church’s choice to knuckle under to Caesar and substitute political and social conformity for God’s supreme authority.  For centuries this unrepentant attitude towards God has been passed down from one generation to the next leaving Church-trusting followers of Jesus with a diluted, inaccurate vision of God. Only those who dare to defy the Church’s politically expedient stands and listen to the Holy Spirit directly become aware of God’s true nature and position on issues central to life.

By and large, as predicted in Revelation 3:16, Jesus has spit the Church out of his mouth as lukewarm, rendered neither hot nor cold by its compromising ways.  The Church has failed to align itself radically and unequivocally with Jesus and will continue to fail to do so until it repudiates and thoroughly roots out the doctrine of political appeasement that the Church fathers adopted at Nicaea.  The Church must muster the courage instead to stand for all-inclusive peace, justice, mercy, forgiveness and grace at any cost to the Church’s relationship with politicians and no longer stand for appeasement at any cost to the Church’s relationship with Jesus.  If ever Jesus is to build his Church upon the Rock that the disciple Peter represented, the Peters within the Church will have to repent of their habits of political expediency and learn to but their minds upon the things of God and not upon the things of man, as Jesus admonished the first Peter to do.  They will have to step out of the comfort zones of their political boats, walk on the stormy waters of life and learn the self-disciplines needed to “serve a risen Savior who is in the world today” and no longer serve their ravenous egos over whom the world holds too much sway. It is time for Church leaders, individually if not yet collectively, to decide whom they serve, for they cannot serve two masters.  Each must decide for himself or herself who is the Master he or she serves.  Each must learn what it truly means to sing and live “What a friend we have in Jesus” as well as “O, Jesus, I have promised” with Jesus being truly honored as Master not merely trusted as Friend.

The issue yet to be decided righteously is the identity of the Chief Authority in Christ’s Church.  Who reigns supreme as head of the body of believers – Caesar and his political successors in humanity’s various forms of government or Jesus who has and needs no successor because he lives beyond death?  Who among us desires to honor God and Jesus no matter how the egos of Caesar and his minions inside and outside of the Church may take offense?  We need not wait until the Church leaders repent of their errors.  We can repent, seek God’s face, pray, humble ourselves to experience God’s dominion beyond ego’s dominion and forsake the ways of the world in favor of the most excellent way of Jesus. (See 2 Chronicles 7:14, Micah 6:8 and Matthew 6:33 for interlocking Biblical guidance on this point.) In doing so, we will make ourselves available to enter into oneness with the Father as Jesus did and set a flood of healing power free to sweep across all nations of the world.  By that flooding power of God’s presence, we will do the works Jesus did and greater things shall we do, just as Jesus foresaw.  It is up to each of us to stop inhibiting the flow of God’s healing grace by our adherence to socially conformist ways.  We must dare to be radically alive as Jesus sets before us his model of life! Jesus did not wait for the permission of religious leaders of his day to step forth as God’s child and we need no wait for permission either.  To defy the Church’s mediocre, lukewarm leadership is either to reject Jesus entirely or to embrace Jesus as the Holy-Spirit-fired leader he is and become Holy-Spirit-fired ourselves.  To stand with Church leadership in this day of suffering and loss is to stand not on compassionate holy ground but on cold-hearted, stony ground. Jesus was moved by compassion to work miracles.  What moves you to what work?  Does money move you to work for a paycheck and that’s it?

Perhaps if we show the way, the truth and the life, Church leaders of modern, technologically overdeveloped and spiritually underdeveloped societies will join us by following our example. Or they may continue to follow the example of the religious leaders of Jesus’ time on earth and declare that the long-awaited Messiah has not yet come.  That may be their choice but it need not be yours or mine because we are free to be heretics who faithfully invite the Holy Spirit to liberate us from chains forged of our appetites for social approval.  It is by this appetite that Church leaders have enslaved us to conformity rather than trained us to be transformed by the power of Divine Love.  To be liberated from the mind-and-heart-enslaving chains of social approval, we need not flee along the Underground Railroad.  We escape to freedom within God’s kingdom by seeking first His/Her Presence within our hearts and allowing the Holy Spirit to add there all the love, grace, wisdom, courage and power that we ever need.

As God comes to reign within our hearts, perfect Love will cast out all fears.  As clouds of fear and doubt fade from our minds at the Sonrise of our renewed lives, we will see God’s nature with increasing clarity and never again wander into ditches under the Church’s fear-befuddled blindness.  Those who Jesus sets free are free indeed – free to live and move and have our being in the Holy One for Whom Jesus is Ambassador Supreme on Earth.  For believers in Jesus nothing else really matters.

Imagine the chagrin of Church leaders if they were to open the doors of their bogus churches and no one showed up because all their former sheep-like congregants heard and heeded the Holy Spirit’s voice within their hearts and no longer went astray.  Sheep who learn to hear and heed their Master Shepherd’s voice do not need compromising Church leaders to show them the Most Excellent Way Jesus reveals. They already know it by heart and remain faithfully within its gracefully disciplined and elegantly anointed pathway by using the GPS guidance of the Holy Spirit — the God-Positioning Spirit.

© Art Nicol 2015

 

Social Justice Impact of Idealizing the Nuclear Family

Many conservatives among Christians, including those grouped as fundamentalists but also many members of mainline churches, idealize the family structure of a married man and woman together with their one or more biological children as the optimum goal for families. This idealized configuration is called the “nuclear family.”  Some flexibility is allowed for adding non-biological children and perhaps even an occasional step-parent into the mix.  Typically little or no flexibility is allowed for parenting by same-sex couples or for recognition of single-parent families as potentially healthy models for raising children. As is typical of moralistically oriented believers in God, the top-down thought-structure of this ideal renders anything less than its attainment a failure to comply with God’s only ordained family lifestyle.  Those who fail to engage in child-rearing as continuously married, opposite-sex parents are second class citizens who deserve to be burdened by guilt and shame for their failure to “do family” God’s way.  Conformity to the “model” nuclear family many conservatives claim as their narrow definition of family is frequently at the heart of what conservative advocates mean by “family values.”

In the days when wealth was deemed proof of one’s worthiness in the eyes of God, poverty was a sign of sinfulness and disfavor with God – or at least a sign of second class citizenship and loss of voice and influence in the Church.  In modern times, participation in a man-woman nuclear family is similarly argued to be necessary to prove one’s worthiness in the eyes of God and to qualify to be empowered within the Church while participation in any other style of family is deemed a sign of disfavor with God, mostly likely associated with sin.  In Jesus’ days on earth, legalistic religious folks asked him if a man were blind on account of his sins or the sins of his parents on the assumption that sin had to be somewhere in the family tree to cause his blindness.  Today, legalistic believers now seem to ask if a child’s participation in a family structure other than a man-woman nuclear family is due to the child’s sins or the sins of the child’s parents.  The assumptions inherent in this question overshadow the child with dark implications of unworthiness and disfavor before God – either directly or by parental association.  Although the child has no choice in structuring the family in which he or she is raised, legalistic folks place false burdens of guilt and shame on the child on account of the family’s structure.  Where poverty once condemned children regardless of the fact that they did not determine their economic status today both poverty and family structure often cause a child to suffer from self-doubt and loss of social status regardless of the child’s lack of power to control either social factor.

Children raised in poverty and/or within non-nuclear family structures have an empowering opportunity just as the blind man had.  They can turn to Jesus to gain freedom from any blinding pain and distress caused by their society’s misrepresentations of God’s standards.  They can regain clarity of sight by learning to allow God’s grace to be proven to be sufficient just as the blind man proved it in Jesus’ day by accepting sight at Jesus’ hand.  So long as believers in Jesus continue to adhere to their myopic prejudice that gives higher social approval and value to families structured as a married pair of opposite-sex adults plus child(ren) they will remain at odds with God’s position on this matter and continue to mislead many others to believe as they do.  God’s position is based on grace, not upon any moralistic rules or rigid definitions about family structure.  If believers want to reflect God’s position on this issue and “do justice” towards children raised in non-nuclear families, we must “love mercy” beyond the law and “walk humbly with God” as if God knows better what our position on this issue – and our response towards members of these families – should be.   We distort and impair social justice so long as we allow any position other than God’s gracious one to prevail within the body of believers upon whom Jesus calls to comfort, heal and bless the children who come unto him.  We are precisely the ones Jesus expects to set the children free rather than burden their innocence with false guilt and shame on account of matters beyond their control.

James 1:27 reports that the “[r]eligion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  At the outset of the industrial age, as family units moved from rural settings, where extended families were normal, to take up residence in urban settings, many family units rapidly trimmed down to parents and children as older adults failed to survive the transition.  To make ends meet the parents in many families worked long and exhausting hours, sometimes even dying in their attempts to provide for their children. Children were also put to work.  This two-tiered, struggling family unit became the new ideal due to economic realities as interpreted by adults who proudly strove for independent self-reliance in cities where they often did not know who else to trust.  Success was defined as having struggled to achieve financial stability sufficient to support a nuclear family while not allowing anyone to play you for a fool.  The stresses of the identity crisis of the industrial age coupled with the assumption that independence was the touchstone of maturity as an adult drove a wedge between adult generations.  A similar wedge-mentality now justifies a belief among many youth and young adults that older adults are too “out of touch” with modern advancements to have much of practical value to offer to the young.  What some conservative Christians lament as the “breakdown of the nuclear family” began as a breakdown of the extended family and advanced into a breakdown throughout all strata of society.  Over the course of several generations, the cohesive village so needed by children vanished into a pile of disintegrated lives.

At the dawn of the industrial age it was deemed necessary to set aside the traditions of extended-family, village-like societies and adopt the nuclear family as a new-era practicality.  The tyranny of the old had to be thrown off just as the tyranny of King George had been thrown off.  Pioneers moving into the industrial age to settle it with a new population capable of surviving there had to leave old ways behind and fend for themselves in self-reliance as they fashioned a new set of values and priorities suited to the industrial age.  By institutionalizing the nuclear family as ideal, subsequent generations of settlers in the industrial age have kept pace with the demands of change that became even more accelerated under the influence of increasingly expanding technology.* Today the accelerating pace of this technological revolution is driving wedges between thinner and more fragile layers of society and splintering the whole into wafer-thin shards.

Along with the wafering of society came a decline in parental energy, focus and attention directed towards child-rearing.  When parents allowed conformist pressures of the marketplace economy to shape them into income-earners and product-consumers, the quality of life for all family members declined as media-driven standards of comfort and convenience became new social norms. The absence of extended family structures and “villages” to offer children alternative havens of physical safety, emotional comfort and exposure to elders’ wisdom has been an unrecognized source of harm one might call “passive neglect” of the best interests of the children.  Yet this neglect is hard to spot when it is the normal condition under which children grow up.  What is missing and forgotten for generations becomes invisible.  This invisibility is a form of blindness that Jesus would help us to overcome if we ask him to.  He will restore the sight of those who want to see what’s best for children.

On account of social wafering, emotional as well as social orphans and widows abound in modern society in various disguises.  Yet many who call themselves Christians fail to look after them in their distress and instead look down upon them to add to their distress.  Such so-called followers of Jesus fail to follow his example when to follow would conflict with their desire to ascend into and conform to the conveniences and cordiality of modern society’s more privileged ranks. Even the modestly privileged focus on advancing up the social ranks rather than follow Jesus into fields that are white with the harvest.  Of course, those who conform to the world rather than be transformed are reluctant to classify their conformity to convenient social norms as “being polluted by the world,” but that’s precisely what it is.  To focus on building, maintaining and providing for a nuclear family to be proud of on society’s terms too often leaves the orphans and widows unlooked after in their distress, feeling ashamed as second class citizens in both the world and within the body of believers.  Prideful glorification of the nuclear family and of so-called family values that idealize a narrowly defined family structure shortchanges Jesus’ ministry to all whom society (including many Christians) presumes to be unworthy of God’s grace and favor.

Social justice is the core of God’s outreach on Earth.  God would use believers in Jesus as restorers of justice – as ones who give sight to those who are blinded by the guilt and shame that society shifts to them to excuse its neglect.  There is no excuse for conforming to the values of the modern industrial-technological era in place of the values, priorities and perspective Jesus modeled while on Earth and calls us to honor even now.  Perhaps for a person who never heard of Jesus or, having heard, chose to ignore what he or she heard, there may be the excuse of ignorance.  But for those who claim to know and honor Jesus there is no excuse.  It is not enough to rely upon the grace of God and assume that Jesus will once again pray “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  It is time to stop relying upon God’s future forgiveness.  It is time instead to repent of our mistaken preference for worshipping socially approved pride in place of spiritually disciplined humility, accept forgiveness now and rise up to serve as the Father would have us serve.  As Jonah demonstrated, the forgiven make powerful messengers of God’s grace and forgiveness.

As he promised, Jesus has sent us the Spirit who leads us into all truth. The Holy Spirit exists.  Its holy function is to comfort us in our afflictions and lead us beyond them in service to others to whom God assigns us.  The afflictions of pride are multiple.  The afflictions of pride associated with idealizing the nuclear family are not our only afflictions but we need to be set them aside and overcome them for the sake of the orphans and widows who remain in distress until the people who call themselves followers of Jesus come to their aid. In God’s eyes, the race, religion, creed, ethnicity, economic class, educational status, gender or sexual orientation and historical background of the orphan or widow do not matter. How they may have become orphaned or widowed does not matter.  Jesus calls us to care for them in their distress until their distress is fully relieved and their vision of God as their loving Divine Parent is restored.  Jesus calls us not only to pray for them but to be his means for answering those prayers as we welcome them into his Kingdom.

If we have any style of family we take delight in, Jesus does not object so long our delight remains laced with gratitude to God and does not turn into pride and cause us to fail to invite others to participate within those experiences that delight us.  If our families are valuable to us and to God, sharing them with others who lack such family delights will relieve them of their lack-based distress and loneliness as social outcasts who are all too well-acquainted with grief.  To invite orphans and widows to be included in our family delights and to welcome all who co-create delightful families by any structure pleases the Divine Parent of us all. It matters not to God whether our family structure is traditionally rural, industrial or post-industrial or innovatively adaptive to prevailing social conditions.  It’s time to focus on pleasing the Head of the Family instead of making elaborate plans to please ourselves while we forget the orphans and widows routinely left out of our self-indulgent plans.  It’s time to suspend our habits of judging those who live within non-nuclear, non-traditional family structures, especially if they are reaching out to orphans and widows in distress more effectively than we are.  Until we’ve learned to reach out at least as effectively we may need to admit how much we have to learn from those we’d previously looked down upon and failed to welcome with humbly open arms and hearts.

* The potentially toxic bloom of technological algae has been labeled “high technology” but it remains to be seen by what measure it is deemed “high.” Perhaps the high is false.  If “high” refers primarily to the capacity of such technologies to produce higher outputs per units of input by humans at faster and faster rates in order to generate greater financial profits with declining payrolls and other benefits to human resources, it may not, in the long run, be directing humanity towards anything higher.  It may promote the worship of mammon.  As a reflection of the worship of the false idol of maximized profits, “high tech” may be leading humanity towards adopting lower and lower standards of character and conduct as “normal” while humans fail to learn to make wise decisions in nano-seconds.  Wisdom may take longer to process and adopt – perhaps the length of time that councils of elders used to take before deciding the fate of their communities.  Data-crunching computers may not be capable of discerning wisdom at any speed.  Like the Corvair, computers may turn out to be unsafe at any speed unless their friendly users are intentionally setting adequate time aside to commune with God at the speed of Stillness.  Stillness may be the escape velocity humans need to attain in order to escape the downward pull of ego’s brazenly self-congratulatory gravity.  Otherwise we risk remaining trapped in orbit around the ego while spinning evermore chaotically and oblivious to the more expansive and enriching possibilities that await us if we were to travel serenely inward to know ourselves as one with God and not as a separated, self-reliant, lonely egos at all.

© Art Nicol 2015

Social Justice Implications of Jesus’ Prayer for Oneness

Jesus’ prayer for all believers to know oneness with God is recorded in the 17th Chapter of John.  As is always the case with Jesus’ ideas, they interrelate and cannot stand apart from one another.  His thoughts form a complete system of thinking that is rooted in the integrity and holiness of God.  Although we may reasonably challenge the authenticity of some quotes attributed to Jesus, the main point of everything Jesus in fact said and did while present in a body on the Earth was to demonstrate “that you may believe that my Father is in me and I in my Father.” John 10:38.  This core theme of oneness with God, repeated in Chapter 17 of John, echoes throughout Jesus’ ministry as he constantly questions the standards used by others to separate “good” people – who are supposedly worthy of social approval and warm welcome by God and the people of God – from “bad” people who supposedly deserve only disapproval and avoidance or exile if not outright attack – by God and the people of God.  Its implications ripple outward into his call that his followers treat the “least of these” as if they are one with him – so totally identified with him that what a person does to any of them a person does to him.

Jesus’ life, by word and deed, reminds us that we are all one within God and with each other because we are all (each and every one of us!) created in the image and likeness of God, expressing God’s divine nature.  Long ago, a fundamental flaw crept into Christian theology when elitists bent on accumulating power over the masses adopted the concept of “original sin” or “inherent flawedness.”  This transparent lie helped to keep the masses controlled by their constant fear of being condemned by God, for whom the elites conveniently claimed to speak to the terror of the masses who already feared the elites.  The elites equated their neglect and abuse of underlings with the way God saw and treated humanity. How convenient to claim to speak for God to justify one’s own cruelty!  What a complete undoing of Jesus’ ministry to call believers back to the religious self-righteousness of Judaic elitism with which Jesus so fervently contended.

The concept of “original sin” is such an insulting idea in its disparagement of God as Creator that Jesus has to constantly serve as Redeemer to correct it.  We who faithfully struggle with how to relate to God need a Redeemer only because we believe false ideas trumpeted in the marketplace by those who hog the soapboxes and pulpits as socially aggressive personalities who crave social approval so much as to demand that they set the standards for social approval. They are like bullies who take over the clubhouse and declare that they now can ban whomever does not please them.  As their craving for political power as a false substitute for spiritual power corrupts their minds and hearts, these religiously garbed bullies do all they can to lead others astray with them. How else would they have followers if not to lead them to embrace the same errors that bullies embrace to justify their dominance? Those who question such absurdities are colored as heretics and blasphemers and made to serve as martyrs and scapegoats for religio-political heroes/bullies.

Who sets the standards?  Man or God?  Woman or Goddess?  Jesus says that his (and our) heavenly Father* sets the standards. He modeled that truth so radically that he submitted his own lesser will to the greater will of the Father even unto death on the cross so as to demonstrate the power that arises from Oneness lived to its most radical extreme. We are called today to do likewise, but few are willing to endure the merest hint of social disapproval (let alone the public humiliation of a cross-hung criminal) to do so.  We mistakenly keep expecting religio-politicians to approve our “deviations” from their critically acclaimed social norms and flinch when they disapprove instead.  How timid we are compared to Jesus and his original disciples!  As a result we cling to our pathetic powerlessness and declare that the age of miracles has closed when in fact it is our own timidity as disciples that has caused miracles to cease to flow.  We are the cause of the lack of divine healing in the modern world.  We thwart God’s will by failing to surrender our lesser wills entirely to the Father’s will as Jesus modeled.  God’s grace permits us to defy Him but to do so costs our children dearly.  Violence, harm and chronic suffering flood our modern world in place of the outpouring of divine miracles God stands ready, willing and able to set free if only we’d listen and heed His call.  Long ago He said it, “[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.  God is entitled to set conditions for our receiving His blessings.  He has clearly stated those conditions in many ways.  Jesus’ example is an entirely integrated and sufficient restatement of all God wants us to know about how to relate to Him.

Why does Jesus direct us towards serving the “least [familiar or approved] of these?”  Why relate to the “stranger” or the “disapproved social outcast?’  Because the more we embrace the stranger in the other person, the more we’ll have opportunities to get to know the stranger in ourselves and accept ourselves more completely too.  And the more we relate to ones who society has labeled as rejects the more we’ll come to accept in ourselves aspects that society would also reject if we were brave enough to reveal them.  We have maintained social approval at the cost of utter honesty about ourselves and our own hidden issues, whatever each of ours may be.  As a result, we’ve also cut ourselves off from the divine love that the Father would have us experience uninhibitedly, without fear or limitation.  We crimp the flow of God’s love by making false idols of social approval in all of its various forms and formats.

It’s all a developmental thing actually.  The human race’s diversity expresses more than mere diversity of surface appearances and actions summed up as “images,” “lifestyles” and “cultures.”  In addition to expressing our demographically measured diversity of gender, age, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, educational level, economic class, veteran status, etc., humanity also expresses our developmental diversity.  We are all arrayed along steps or stages of development as each of us has achieved some steps or stages ahead of others.  With respect to the multifaceted range of human wholeness God designed us to master, most if not all of us are as yet incompletely developed or evolved.  Since we develop in response to our social environments, we tend to develop different facets of our gemlike wholeness on different timetables depending upon the social environments to which we have been exposed so far.  (Do we not sometimes say, “He is a product of his environment?”)

For this reason, when we encounter a “stranger,” he or she is “strange” to a significant degree precisely because he or she has been exposed to different social environments or conditions (families, cultures, etc.) than we have.  We encounter the effects of those different social environments as embodied in and expressed through the “other” or “stranger.” Yet if we were totally honest with ourselves we would say, “There but by the grace of God go I.”  We’d admit that we would be much like the stranger had we endured the social environments and its conditioning through which he or she has evolved.

Each person we meet offers us another opportunity to learn more about ourselves as we might be had we lived a life different from the one we’ve lived so far.  Those opportunities offer insights into our wholeness because they reveal aspects of ourselves that our current or previous social environments may not have mirrored back to us before so powerfully or at all.  And we tend to mirror for the other person in each relationship similarly helpful feedback about himself or herself.  When we mirror feedback consciously without judgment or fault-finding, we are lovingly nurturing each other.  We are learning to walk in each other’s moccasins with empathy and compassion.  The social environment of lovingly nurturing each other with gracious feedback is the kingdom of God Jesus represents and encourages us to enter into – seeking first God’s righteousness and no longer asserting our own (inadequate!) self-righteousness.  That God’s righteousness is infused with grace and mercy is a lesson we need to learn by heart until we master it.  Meeting and serving strangers so as to be their gracious hosts affords us opportunities for such mastery.  Through practice, our mastery of hosting strangers empowers us to rise beyond xenophobia and learn to welcome each supposed “other” as a sister or brother – no longer a stranger at all.  The same benefit to ourselves arises from our treating any of those least approved of by our society as if he or she were Jesus.

Jesus calls us to be servants of those we know and approve of and those we don’t know or approve of because he knows how developmentally immature we are and always will be if we remain trapped within our social-approval bubbles or cocoons.  Unless we explore beyond our bubbles (comfort zones or familiar territory) to find opportunities to serve as Jesus served, we will remain uninvolved and unevolved as well.  Within heavily defended comfort zones based on conformity, discipleship as well as personal maturity stagnates.  The world calls it “arrested development.” Constant rebirth amidst the challenges of diversity is a part of maturation as Jesus’ disciple.  Jesus’ own journey illustrates that one must never pitch a tent or set up a booth in an attempt to preserve the status quo, even one as magnificent at the Mount of Transfiguration.  For us to develop or mature progressively as spiritual beings, humility requires that we admit that we are often ignorant – not stupid but lacking in information and ill-informed.  The brightest genius can still be uninformed or ill-informed.  In humility we listen and learn – and perhaps even laugh at ourselves more readily rather than fume over every little error or non-erroneous nonconformity we or others may adopt. Jesus asks us to listen within our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit.  That’s why he sent the Holy Spirit to be our constant Teacher as we develop greater maturity as his followers.  Even today there are things that many of Jesus’ disciples cannot yet bear to hear, as he long ago foresaw. (See John 16:12.)  Yet we can all become delightfully competent, ever-growing-wiser students of the Truth that sets us free to develop our wholeness more and more completely.

Freedom to be authentic and whole beings of integrity and love as God created us to be is scary – yet it is also the essence of social justice.  It implies letting go of social structures we once depended upon to guide and protect us on our journeys as if social approval were the only purpose of our lives.  In His quest for our highest good, our Father does not intend that those social structures with which we become so familiar during various phases of our development become our imprisoning status quo of traditions or “laws” (rules, roles and rituals).  Like the gantry of a rocket that once enabled the rocket to stand erect and not fall over while it was assembled, equipped and fueled, social structures must at some point release us to soar beyond them.  When that happens we are dependent on our internal guidance systems.

The more our internal guidance systems are attuned to God’s will, spirit, heart and mind the more at peace with God we’ll be as we journey onward in our quest for more elegant mastery, deeper enrichment and more lasting satisfaction as our Father’s servant-sons and -daughters. Those who serve with grace achieve a high orbit from which to envision and embrace the whole of humanity as God’s family of beloved and much favored children.  From that orbit it is increasingly possible to understand and live within the terms of Micah 6:8: “O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Walking humbly with our Father as Jesus did in full surrender of our otherwise socially distorted will is essential to our acting justly as servants of social justice.  As preserved in the King James version of the Bible, we must live by faith to be just: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  Romans 1:17  Let us dare to live as it is written and as it is revealed over and over again in our hearts as we listen to the Holy Spirit and “[d]o not conform to the pattern of this world, but [are] transformed by the renewing of [our] mind. Then [we] will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

*Today Jesus would have no problem calling the Supreme Parent “Mother” too.  He could not do so earlier due to the social constraints of his historically first human audience with whom such a concept would have sidetracked communications too much. See, John 16:12-15 for Jesus’ explanation of his plan of sequential communication with successive audiences.

Copyright by Art Nicol 2015

Deliverance from Suffering Delivers Us from Sin – Jesus’ Vision of the Way – Part 1

Although the relationship between suffering and sin may seem obscure, it may be helpful to realize that the Church that has purported to represent Jesus has obscured rather than clarified this relationship. Charged with spreading Jesus’ teachings about the relationship between suffering and sin, the Church has, for over 2000 years, failed to preserve and present his message as he first delivered it.  Instead of preserving the heart of Jesus’ message, the Church became distracted in preserving itself against political forces that resisted Jesus’ message and persecuted those who believed it strongly enough to live according to it.  In its fight for self-preservation, the Church fell into the same fundamental error that Jesus’ message is intended to correct and from which Jesus still intends to deliver all of humanity, with uttermost commitment to the proposition that all people are cherished children of God and with undying determination that no child of God be left behind.

The human cure for suffering seemed just as self-evident to Jesus’ earliest followers as it seems today to his current ones.  Peter exemplified it when he denied Jesus three times while Jesus was standing up to persecution by political institutions and enduring suffering at their hands.  The cure for persecution and its consequential suffering, Peter’s example teaches, is to not follow Jesus “too” closely.  Instead find safety by wading along in the shallows and not venturing into deeper waters as a follower.  Compromise your devotion when threatening political forces challenge you. Instead of standing up to them cozy up to them as closely as you can so that you present no threat to their social privileges.  Stay along the shore in shallow waters where the social elite frolic. Don’t dare them to swim beyond their safe comfort zone of social approval to encounter God’s grace that dispels all fear only when fears are fairly faced.

To human beings accustomed to surviving amid competing social pressures, the end of suffering seems most readily achieved by associating favorably with the most powerful cause of suffering so as not to be the target of its persecution. According to that theory, the goal is to shift violence away from a favored person or group towards unfavored persons or groups. The “favored” person or group hopes to remain within the protective shield of the “friendly” source of violence – and not have violence directed his, her or their direction (e.g., avoid friendly fire or being an injured bystander or collateral damage) – and to be protected from any violence potentially directed towards him, her or them from any other source of violence.

To achieve this end, systems of attack and defense are established to keep ahead of competing systems of violence.  Arms races and armed conflicts are examples of this competition. Other examples include systems of law enforcement and prisons, gated communities and security systems in response to crime, well-guarded, rigorously restrictive national borders, rival gangs, family feuds and domestic violence orders of protection when they are applied to sustain victim-victimizer polarization rather than promote restoration of peace and health for all parties.  The slogan of all such systems is “Join ‘us’ and be safe from ‘them.’” The idea of rethinking these systems is itself controversial because any de-escalation or modification of such systems renews our fears of the “worst case scenario” imaginable.  There is no end to the degree to which we might be carried away by our fears into greater commitment to the perpetuation of pain and suffering.

In contrast, Jesus took and still takes the position that suffering’s end will come only when we change our structures of thought and our implementing institutions that cause and maintain suffering and embrace instead the divine alternative way of thinking and implementing that Jesus modeled. In Jesus’ vision of suffering’s end, tradition-bound human institutions that cause and maintain suffering and their ways of thinking must be replaced by freer, more spontaneously Spirit-guided dynamics that do not cause or maintain suffering and that, by necessity, are based on another way of thinking.  This position he espoused when he declared, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  His declaration translates today into “Think differently about how to end suffering because present even now are spiritually oriented social dynamics and a personal way of life that cause healing instead of suffering and restore and sustain our health as well.”  Jesus anticipated Einstein’s observation that a problem cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which it was created.  He offered to show us how to access God’s thoughts, which are at a higher level than human thinking. There Divine Wisdom’s solution awaits.

By following Peter’s example instead of Jesus’ model, the Church learned to deny Jesus as Peter did to whatever extent necessary to avoid the persecution and suffering it had previously endured at the hands of political forces arrayed in opposition to God’s social alternative on earth.  Eventually the Church compromised with a Roman Emperor who supposedly embraced Christianity and made it the official state religion.  So as to remain the “official” religion of the Roman Empire and thereby placate and be cozy with the powers that once persecuted them, the Church knuckled under to the Emperor’s demands for conformity in the Church’s doctrines.  In what would prove to be a progressively more complete manner, the Church rendered unto Caesar not only what was Caesar’s but also what was God’s. Such is the progression of all forms of addiction and co-dependency.  The modern Church still suffers from this cowardly lapse into ill-health as it became the bride of Caesar instead of the Bride of Christ.  For centuries since its marriage to Caesar, the Church has sought for security through being a social insider rather than through being aware of God inside where Jesus said the Holy Spirit will access awareness of Truth’s courageous kingdom in our hearts.  Looking outward for its social cues from other social insiders, the Church maintains its marriage to socio-political institutions by collaborating with them much as an abused spouse collaborates with his or her partner because independence seems to come at too great a cost.

As a shrewd politician who knew that openly discussed and disputed differences in beliefs would undermine the value to his empire of Christianity’s system of beliefs, Emperor Constantine the Great demanded that the Church fathers clean up their act and stop tolerating controversy and diversity among themselves.  So as to line up his collaborators, subjects and slaves in unflagging allegiance rooted in their fear of suffering, the Emperor demanded conformity to his will from everyone who claimed to be his ally.  So, the Church fathers gathered at Nicea to find a way to provide it.  Eventually they found a way, a way akin more to Constantine’s politically motivated machinations than to Jesus’ spiritually motivated mission.  The key to avoiding persecution turned out to be for the Church to become an arm of the Emperor’s persecution and play the political game of eliminating all diversity of viewpoints.  In the process of purging diversity of beliefs, the Church fathers introduced the practice of justifying their persecution of those who disagreed with them by citing texts deemed sacred (known today as The Bible) as their “infallible” authority (while they, by no small coincidence, also simultaneously took up the twin role of defining which texts would be declared sacred and being the texts’ sole authorized interpreters).  In this manner, the Holy Spirit’s role as revealer of All Truth was subordinated to texts that supposedly already contained all the “truth” we’d ever need to know.

Thus began the Church’s devotion to its self-preservation as a political institution, its misuse of sacred texts to justify its actions and its sliding away from its devotion to preserving the message Jesus lived, died and rose again to spread to all corners of the earth.  To compromise this message of God’s eternal and unqualified grace as the true end to suffering eroded and eventually erased the message all together.  To temporize it destroyed the eternal nature of Jesus’ message.  To introduce favoritism based on political considerations undermined the unqualifiedly inclusive nature of the message.  In a stunningly short time it became only logical to adopt Constantine’s ways to enforce conformity within the Church: extermination of diversity of viewpoints as if penetrating contemplation, passionate conversation and patient consideration of what Jesus meant as he lived his life on earth were totally intolerable.  The hierarchical power structure of the Church came to emulate the top-down power structure of the Empire and other monarchies precisely because its aim and function were the same as that of other human institutions.  When self-preservation is the primary purpose of an organization’s life, it is only logical to develop structures that effectuate this purpose primarily.  A pyramid of loyal subordinates who are dependent on the leader’s power for their own self-preservation suits well the purpose of the leader to preserve himself in power – regardless of declining commitment to the organization’s initially stated mission to establish an alternative way of life awash with healing and health in place of suffering.

Once the primary purpose of the Church came to be its own self-preservation, the amassing of power to itself became a logical next step.  This step brought the Church into direct competition with other social institutions such as monarchies, merchants’ guilds and military engines that likewise were appropriating power, material resources and loyal adherents to themselves for self-preservation.  Power-hungry, politically savvy men (and less frequently women) gravitated to opportunities to amass personal power under the guise of aiding institutions in their struggle for power.  Political struggles and their corresponding manipulations of minds within and among these organizations inevitably became the main game. To accomplish their goals, monarchs, merchants, the military and missionaries joined forces in mutually supportive ways.  The Church’s claim to speak for God was one of its most useful contributions to empire-building by others.  Through fear of God, the Church recruited loyal followers and increased wealth to the service of the monarchs, merchants and military who in turn aided the Church’s rise to power. In addition, the Church pronounced divine justifications for God’s favor falling upon the Church’s allies instead of upon those who opposed the Church’s allies.  The Church’s rhetoric became increasingly and then unceasingly self-serving, inflicting suffering on those who opposed the Church in any sphere of life.

In tugs-of-war among power grabbers and megalomaniacs throughout history, even helpful human institutions suffered from abuse of their ideologies and rationales for existing.  Distortions of their purposes twisted them into convoluted structures and dynamics unrecognizable in comparison to their origins – converting them from helpfulness to harmfulness.  As a result, institutions of civilization of all types have risen and fallen because the sustainability of human institutions is based on honesty and integrity in remaining true to each institution’s purpose.  Wandering off target from the true purpose is called “hypocrisy.” It is a toxic condition that will not sustain life. No form of life that pretends to be something it is not can sustain itself.

Any form of life that fails to remain faithful to its true purpose inevitably disintegrates for lack of internal integrity as its immune system attacks the artificial aspects of its pretense and parasitic organisms convert it into their host for their contrary purposes. A self-deceiving life form topples as its infrastructures weaken. Its decay is the opposite of health. In the absence of continuously maintained healthy integration organized around its true purpose, an organism disintegrates and falls.  Splintering into pieces is one natural outcome of becoming excessively rigid while trying to maintain uprightness artificially and then falling down. Over the centuries, the Church, in the course of its cyclical decline, has splintered into many denominations large and small.  With few exceptions, most of these fragments of the professing followers of Jesus, in attempting to assert their independence from the declining Church, have taken on some form of political structure designed to promote the superiority of each splinter of a community that ironically purports to be one whole and indivisible body of believers in Jesus.

Splinters cause pain.  Shattering of communities into subparts that war against each other in their respective quests for members, wealth and power causes pain.  Instead of remaining true to Jesus as a Bringer of the Light of healing and the end of suffering, the Church in its many shards has become itself a source of pain and suffering.  In this manner, the Church has wandered progressively farther from Jesus’ unifying cry to all humanity, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  The Church no longer believes uncompromisingly in that cry or in the process Jesus introduced for implementing the Church’s divine charge to lead humanity into its unified destiny of oneness. Until the Church repents and believes again with a purity of faith in the mysteries of God and the Divine Wisdom of God’s Plan, both the Church and God’s Plan will continue to fail due to the Church’s noncooperation with the Plan.

God will not impose the realm of divinely inspired grace and love upon humankind against our will. We must choose freely to receive and enter into the experience of the realm of grace as an act of free will or we’ll not receive it at all.  By God’s choice to remain eternally faithful to humanity, divine grace continues to be available to individuals who single-mindedly determine to enter into the kingdom of God even in the face of the Church’s failure to carry forward with its divine charge to be God’s kingdom on earth.  The Church will repudiate these individuals as heretics until the Church learns to recognize them as the cutting edge appearance of the very mission that is its to carry out.  Such individuals are budding mystics (sometimes called Gnostics and heretics) whom the Church’s traditionalists scorn and reject because the traditionalists know not what they do. Today they crucify the mystics who dare to show up openly to fulfill the Spirit of the law and traditions just as the religious traditionalists of Jesus’ day on earth crucified him.

Meanwhile the dismembered Church will continue to teach and explain “about” Jesus through a variety of stories and doctrinal positions but it will not serve as his unified spokesperson on earth until its scattered elements, in concert, lean towards, listen to and loyally obey him as Lord.  The most the modern splintered Church is willing to do today is to acknowledge Jesus as the Church’s Savior when it inevitably fails to carry out its mission because it will not cooperate with Jesus as Lord (Chief Authority Figure of and within the Church).  To accept Jesus as Lord requires one to repudiate prevailing power Caesars (and their model of doing organizational business) and risk instead the persecutorial wrath of politicians near and far who serve and preserve the current empire as faithfully as one hopes to serve Jesus in the presentation of his divine message and mission.

A clash between the divisive faith agendas of political realms and the unifying faith agenda of God’s Plan to End the Suffering of All of Us is, by definition, unavoidable.  This clash of wills manifests in a variety of ways, chief among them being political persecution directed against any whose uncompromising commitment to God’s Plan remains unshakeable.  In the clash of commitments only a small minority of Jesus’ followers are willing to expose themselves to politicians’ lashings as Jesus did. The vast majority of his followers duck into the shadows as Peter ducked, compromising their personal allegiance to Jesus because it’s socially or politically rewarding to do so. So long as being popular or seeking votes matters, the likelihood is great that public displays of ugly ducking will continue to be more prevalent than courageous stands for justice on behalf of the least socially powerful, who are more popularly scapegoated as villains than cast as heroes and yet find an advocate in Jesus.

Another vital point to note is that serving Jesus does not require one to fight for his preservation.  He cannot die or otherwise be unpreserved.  By his very nature as an eternally alive child of God, he is already preserved by a Power greater than any power that might come against him to threaten his preservation.  That fact relieves his faithful followers of having to be concerned about protecting him. As he cowered in the courtyard during Jesus’ interrogation by the politicians of his day, perhaps Peter trembled in part because he felt powerless to protect one he loved as he loved Jesus. Perhaps he felt guilty and ashamed of his failure and was paralyzed with fear. Believing past stories of God’s wrathful relationship to humanity, Peter may have been confused about how he was to draw guidance from those stories to apply to Jesus’ strange manifestation of the promised Messiah.  Confusion is a form of pain that may have added to his paralysis and feelings of helplessness.

Perhaps it would have been helpful for Peter to know then what he learned later, namely that Jesus would overcome death and not be defeated by the worst that the politicians of his day could throw at him.  One can only imagine how it might have helped Peter to stand stronger had he known the outcome and realized how little Jesus needed Peter’s help to be preserved.  Perhaps then Peter might have been freer to consider how he might choose to relate to that mysterious new process of overcoming all fear that Jesus modeled. Had he known then what we know now, perhaps he too might have allowed Perfect Love to cast out all fear and stood alongside Jesus even in the hour of his appearing to be powerless.  Jesus tells us that when two or more gather in his name (and nature of the Christ), there is greater power than when one stands in his or her divine nature alone. Today we who believe in Jesus with all of our hearts, minds, wills and spirits are called to stand together to invoke the Divine Power of our gathering and allow God to manifest in all His/Her grace and glory as Love for all.

Today we know what Peter did not know.  Yet we who purport to follow Jesus while living comfortably as privileged members of society continue to cower in the face of suffering as if its power were greater than the power of the Father manifest through our Lord and Savior.  Like the rich young ruler who was dismayed by Jesus’ instructions to sell all he owned, give the sale proceeds to the poor and follow Jesus, we are dismayed by the prospect of no longer focusing our energies on self-preservation (or only on the preservation of our personal loved ones) and instead surrendering our wealth and welfare into the hands of God as Jesus modeled – for the benefit of all of God’s loved ones as God determines is best.  Understandably, we cower at the prospect of trusting God so utterly while yet continuing to witness the failure of any other approach to ending the world’s suffering.

Many are scared to follow Jesus as radically as he requires because they fear losing their current lifestyles and being ridiculed for being so overly idealistic.  They interpret ridicule and loss of social status and comfortable lifestyles as shame, a “sacrifice of pride” rather than seeing this “loss of pride” as a sign of humility gained to empower sacred lifestyles rooted in ancient wisdom.  God calls us not to be a sacrifice but instead to be a sacrament, not to martyrdom but to mastery of the art of thriving fully beyond the ego’s stifling criteria of shame and pride.  We need to lay down our former ego-based lifestyles for Jesus as our friend and Master in order to receive life back again with humility and God-defined purpose, far more empowered to enjoy life fully than we’d ever be in any other way.  We need to trust Jesus to be our Lord and Servant too.  We need to turn the world on its head as Jesus did to become aware that God’s call to service is supported by God’s promise to serve us as we serve others in God’s name and nature.  We don’t need “more faith” in God. Rather we need to know God more accurately as the egoless God who serves us as His/Her servant-children, not as a false, ego-bound God who expects our all from us without giving God’s all in return. The truth is that as we give our 100% to serve God’s purpose and Plan, God gives His/Her 100% back to us to the full extent that we expand our capacities to receive all He/She gives.  Surely this is an exchange that promises substantial benefits, many of which cannot be accurately foreseen and simply must be expected and accepted by faith.  It is not impractical to follow Jesus radically – from the very root and core of our beings where the Christ Light shines – but it does feel scary.

© Art Nicol 2013