A few nights ago, I was down in the dumps. Kat had strained her back (right after she had printed our grueling month’s tasks) and I was feeling very low. With news of Islam on television weekly and the talk of so-called Christians acting very un-Christian, I asked myself “What makes my religion any different then others?” Hypocrites run rampant in every community, while truth-seekers are certainly not unique to Christianity. Converts say their religion is “the truth” in every religion, so much to where truth is a vague concept. Subject to opinion. Subject to change. In the words of Lao Tzu, “The words of truth are always paradoxical.” He probably didn’t profess Jesus Christ as Lord (at least if he did it would be a surprise to us all since he is the father of Taoism) yet he seemed to understand the truth enough to explain it. Yet Pilate stood in front of Lord Jesus asking “What is truth?” So how can Christians claim that truth is known to all and that everyone has a chance to know God or the truth can set us free, if in fact Pilate was unaware of the “true way” while Lao Tzu is forever doomed because he “misunderstood” the truth by not accepting Christ? It seems truth is a burden, not a release; a punishment, not a salvation; the opposite of what Christians strive to teach.
In my heart that night, I still wanted to believe. So I asked God in my prayer journal, “Give me two ‘Verses of the Day’ that tell me why Jesus is different then any other religion.” (Each night I check the ‘verse of the day’, one from the Biblegateway app and one from the Youversion app.) In other words, I wanted God to reassure me that I had no reason to doubt. As humans it’s an easy thing to do.
The first verse was James 3:13, and forward…
“Are there people among you who are wise and understanding? They are to prove it by their good lives, by their good deeds performed with humility and wisdom. But if in your heart you are jealous, bitter, and selfish, don’t sin against the truth by boasting of your wisdom. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven; it belongs to the world, it is unspiritual and demonic. Where there is jealousy and selfishness, there is also disorder and every kind of evil.
“But the wisdom from above is pure first of all; it is also peaceful, gentle, and friendly; it is full of compassion and produces a harvest of good deeds; it is free from prejudice and hypocrisy. And goodness is the harvest that is produced from the seeds the peacemakers plant in peace.” (GNB)
When I read this, my curiosity was piqued. The passage said nothing about Jesus, but it spoke of spirituality and goodness, both words in modern day that are controversially ambiguous. I mean, who is “good”? Who is spiritual? Those who are successful; those who are serene and confident after meditation. But the Bible expresses it differently, yet not too different from Lao Tzu and others. James, the author of the book, said that being good is being humble and planting seeds in peace. Buddha said “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.” Did they not say it similarly? And to James, being spiritual is being pure, merciful, and genuine. Radhanath Swami said “Our spiritual progress depends on service attitude and our sincere chanting.” Same thing?
I can see that James 3:13-18 clearly says that a ‘good life [proven] by good deeds’ is the key to wisdom. Anyone can be wise if they live a good life; just as anyone, Christian or not, can be unwise by living a selfish one. Therefore, if a Christian is not humble or honest, I can’t let that person taint my view of Christ. Jesus Christ is not a Christian, He is the one that all Christians should strive to be like, but there is such thing as talking the talk and not walking the walk. Unfortunately, many Christians do not walk the walk as they should; they are robbers of Christ’s love. Christians by status, not by effort.
So that was God’s 1st answer to my prayer: God’s wisdom is humble, and his spirituality is peaceful. If I don’t have humility and peace, I don’t have God.
But where does Jesus fit in? The second verse was Romans 8:26 and forward…
(previously talking about how our spirits groan for redemption)
“…In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will.
“We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.
“Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the eldest brother in a large family. And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them.
“In view of all this, what can we say? If God is for us, who can be against us? Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son, but offered him for us all! He gave us his Son – will he not also freely give us all things?
“Who will accuse God’s chosen people? God himself declares them not guilty! Who, then, will condemn them? Not Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, who was raised to life and is at the right-hand side of God, pleading with him for us! Who then, can separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger or poverty or danger or death? As the scripture says,
‘for your sake we are in danger of death at all times; we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered.’
“No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below – there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (GNB)
I had no reaction (only a peaceful stillness) after reading this passage. I could find no interpretation other than this: Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit, the 3 together, has every benefit and every quality that anyone could ever need. Not only is Jesus -the one true way to God- providing us with the gift of a connection to God’s love, but the Holy Spirit speaks for us when we have no words to say, and God Himself always works all things on our behalf. Talk about a support group!
My 2nd answer from God is that his love has been proven through Jesus Christ.
Let me conclude by saying a truthful paradox: Jesus Christ, who is God, with God, became man. Born to die so he might live again, he gifted us with the ability to live, not die, though we are mortals separated from God. So we have the gift of God-leaving-God’s-side so that we mortals may be rejoined to God immortally.
One final meditation: To any who relates with Mahatma Gandi as he said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I would like to respond: you do not have to accept Christians. Only accept Christ. There is the infallible one God, and there are many fallible humans. Never view the fallible as good, seek instead to find your own path towards the one, infallible Christ.
“As Jesus was starting on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?’
“‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus asked him. ‘No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; do not cheat; respect your father and your mother.”
“‘Teacher,’ the man said, ‘ever since I was young I have obeyed all these commandments.’
“Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, ‘You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.'” Mark 10: 17-21 (GNB)