Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Day Before Easter

This post grew out of an e-mail discussion elsewhere, but I felt it merited publication here.

I take a more traditionally Christian view of the death and resurrection of Jesus. To me, it shows immense love and compassion for flawed humanity that God took on human form and walked in our shoes. He also suffered great pain and experienced tragedy, something many people on this planet have gone through to one form or another.

I note, of course, that this fact should not be turned into a bludgeon, a way to extract guilt to force people to stay in line, no matter what. I've been wary of using the term "Jesus died for us", because it has taken on an authoritarian form far from Jesus' original intent.

The Jesus I understand taught Salvation by Grace, not by Works. Judaism of that time, and sometimes very much still of this time, focused on multiple rituals one must perform to not be considered ceremonially unclean. These codes of belief particularly centered on purity laws, often about foods not to eat, places not to go, people to not talk to, and so on. They were exhaustive and some groups of people were fanatical about their note-perfect observation. 

Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. "Listen," he said, "and try to understand. What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them." "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the words you speak come from the heart--that's what defiles you.

I don't think you can win your way into Heaven through good works. We're saved regardless of what we do or don't do. What we hold in our hearts is much more important, and that was arguably the most important lesson Jesus taught. It was a quantum leap in terms of theological understanding.

But there have always been people and groups willing to pervert the basic message for their own reasons. Every Christian or historically Christian faith group has plucked specific biblical passages to support its own theology. The Early Friends emphasized this one:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Here's another one that may sound familiar to some.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Yes, this is why we, Quakers, are the Religious Society of Friends. And in that Spirit, George Fox said this,

"Keep within. And when they say, 'lo here', or 'lo there' is Christ; go not forth; for Christ is within you. And they are seducers and antichrists, which draw your minds out from the teachings within you."

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