Okay, so with the title of this article post one might be able to tell somewhat of what it is about. You, the reader, might think, “Well, isn’t he the brave soul who thinks he has the authority to judge in such a way.” Or perhaps you will wonder where I got my facts or even had the time or incentive to get them. But in most cases you who are reading this post will be simply shocked that anyone would have the gall to publish such a bold statement such as this and declare me either brave, insane or a fool with satanic tendencies of rudeness. Think what you will, after nearly seventy years of living on this planet which is filled with the intensity of so called intelligent creatures who each believe they are God’s own special gift to the world I have finally come to the point of realizing the real irony of humans, us, trying to govern ourselves or to even imagine we can comprehend our Creator.
Through my life, I have lived in this country called the United States which has boldly been called a “Christian nation” by many. I have intentionally visited many denominational churches, preaching in some, singing in many, and listening to the preachers teach their theologies in all. Amazingly, all of the churches I have visited who called themselves “Christian” did have one basic message between them: that being that Jesus is the Christ who was born, killed upon a cross, buried, resurrected and taken somewhere with most teaching the hope of him returning sometime in the future. But the similitude ends there. The way these things happened and what is promised to happen after that differs in as many ways as there are mountains on the planet. Beyond this maze of so called messages of truth are several other similar mazes of other people attempting to live the best way they know how by following leaders like Mohammed, Gautama the Buddha, and others, they believe or have been taught have found the truth. Each of these groups, these religions, like Christianity claim absolute possession of the truth with no one else having right to make that claim.
If you’ve been reading my posts on this blog then you’ve seen me ask the question before of what does it really mean to be “Christian.” I don’t really expect you to be able to just sit down at your computer and start typing your answer immediately. But we have entered into a period of time in our world’s history where everyone making the claim that they are “Christian” have a very clear definition in their minds of what that means. There seems to be three major ways to study the Christian Holy Bible and each of these ways tends to shape a person’s concept of what it means to live the “Christ life.” Interestingly, the three basic concepts of the Christ life follow the Christian teaching of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the “Trinity.”
Traditionalists (One God – The Father). Many denominations believe that in order to be like Jesus, the Christ, one must study the Old Testament history which leads up to the birth of Jesus and to help bring, no, to demand the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth even if it means doing so by force. They teach a readiness to take up arms when necessary. They believe there is no place in heaven for the so called “coward,” and devote much time in studying the scriptures to prove their responsibility to God regardless what it takes. These believers become single minded, single purposed, and single hearted. Put simply, it is best to stay out of their way or they may consider you God’s enemy and think it their responsibility to destroy you. They see Jesus as a quiet warrior who accepted a fate of being innocently sentenced unjustly to death, being crucified and later, to be able to show his followers that they really had nothing to fear, not even death itself and to pay the penalty of being less than perfect required by Jewish law. Why? Because Jesus’ resurrection proved the believers’ power over death, the “King of Terror.” These believers emphasize the basic Hebraic belief that there is but one God, but they have various ways of proclaiming that belief all best summarized by the fact that they in essence are stating that Jesus was and is God. This fact, and the belief in a promise that sometime in the future Jesus is promised to return to Earth to establish the Kingdom of God on this planet is of prime importance to these believers. Thus this body of believers’ faith is based on the history of this world and is centered upon overcoming this world to eventually establish God’s kingdom upon it to make it a paradisiacal existence as it was originally created to be.
Reformers (God, the Son). Other churches believe that Jesus, the Son of God, taught a radically different method of overcoming the chaos of the world and giving freedom to those in slavery and poverty. This group of believers trusts less on the violent tendencies taught in the Old Testament scriptures and more upon the power of loving God and one another. Their message is less that the truth is for a specific chosen group of people and more that whoever chooses to do so can be a part of the spiritual kingdom of God. They teach less of the history of the Old Testament and more of the life of Jesus and what this master teacher taught, insisting that it is the emulation of the Christ which will bring peace to the world. They are less concerned with the letter of the law and teach more of the method of truth as taught by Jesus. They study more deeply such Christ teachings as the “Sermon on the Mount” and his teachings and actions concerning the parables and miracles. While recognizing the hope for a future kingdom these believers place less emphasis on prophecy and more on trying to live their current lives in a way they believe is honorable to their spiritual king, Jesus. Many seem to believe that while the evidence in the physical world appears to show otherwise the Kingdom of God is already established in this world through those who believe and attempt to emulate Jesus’ lifestyle.
Spiritualists (God, the Spirit). Then there is this third group of believers with gatherings which appear much smaller but with messages which seems at times much more powerful. That is, if the message is comprehended. They are the ones which believe the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God is already dwelling within people. The way the Kingdom of Heaven will be established as reality on this planet will be for us to recognize that fact of the indwelling spirit of perfect love and allow it to live through us. These groups tend not to have denominational or even religious boundaries for they believe all “seekers of truth” are seeking the same God and that all religions, including Christians, are serving the same God. It is this indwelling Spirit, best recognized as Agape, that these believers proclaim as the fullness of the “unseen God.” They attempt to show the essence of what they believe God’s love to be with no barriers to others due to race, ethnicity, education, wealth, political stance or religious background. They believe the Kingdom of God to be a spiritual one visible only by the love their varied members have for one another. Their idea of who Jesus was, is that of a highly esteemed master teacher of life alongside of, or sometimes leader of, many other esteemed avatars like Mohammed, the Buddha and others. They generally do not believe the idea of a physical return of Jesus, but rather believe his “second coming” is that of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers through which the whole planet could be “saved” when enough people are controlled by that same Holy Spirit.
So there, in a short, simplified description, we can see the Christian concept of Christ as it has shaped our present. The Protestant, Evangelical conservative believers who believe they must now establish the Kingdom of God. By force if necessary. The Protestant, Catholic, liberalistic believers who teach that we must emulate Christ and serve people regardless of who they are. And those who attempt to live a spiritual life and be less involved with worldly philosophies, attempting to live the spiritual life of peace and love in the world today in the hope that if enough people do so that eventually it will change the world.
So who is right? None of them. All of them. The irony of this whole scenario is that this trichotomy of philosophies, while they seem to be somewhat in opposition to one another and in fact at times find their leaders in direct debate, they must through the Holy Spirit somehow lay aside their differences and find their commonalities before the glorious Kingdom of Heaven can come to Earth and the Kingdom of God be established on the planet.
The conservative traditionalist must lay aside their thought that the spiritualists’ teachings of a possible kingdom based on agape love is a weak faith which can lead only to failure. The reformers must recognize and study more of the Old Testament history of the church and how and why Jesus taught as he did. The spiritualists must be more open with their faith and allow the Holy Spirit to be expressed within them more boldly that others might see and experience the peace and love they claim to be possible through such faith. In short, each group has but just part of the wholeness of the truth.
It is only when we all recognize that we are all on this planet together as seekers of the Truth and that we only have a vague image of it shadowed in a few pages of some ancient books that we will begin to comprehend how we can bring the Kingdom of God to this planet. We must recognize that the place where our neighbor is currently at in their faith is, at the time, the best place for them. Yet if we believe what we say we believe then we must actively live our own faith, allowing the same right and privilege to do so to everyone else. The most major hurdle to be made toward bringing the Kingdom of God to Earth will be what Jesus said were the two greatest commandments: Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love thy neighbor as thyself. Where are you at on this challenge? Where is your church?