By Rudy Barnes, Jr., April 8, 2023
Jesus began his ministry by announcing the coming kingdom of God, and three years later he entered Jerusalem on Passover with crowds welcoming him as their long-awaited messiah. They would be disappointed. Jesus was not the zealot and worldly leader they expected to overthrow Roman rule, but a maverick rabbi who exemplified sacrificial love.
Today the Christian religion continues to represent Jesus as God’s blood sacrifice sent to save believers from sin, rather than to be followed as God’s Truth. While Christianity has grown to be the world’s largest religion, the world continues to live in sin. To save the world from itself, the church should focus on promoting the teachings of Jesus on love and reconciliation.
As Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter, they should ponder the meaning of the resurrection. The church continues to emphasize beliefs based on cheap grace rather than the cost of discipleship; but after 2,000 years the meaning of the resurrection should be conformed to the teachings of Jesus rather than on church doctrines never taught by Jesus.
The teachings of Jesus are summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves. It defines the moral imperative of God’s reconciling love, but exclusivist church doctrines and dogmas never taught by Jesus have done more to divide people than to reconcile them.
Christian beliefs are based on Paul’s atonement doctrine. It limits salvation to those who believe that the crucifixion of Jesus was God’s blood sacrifice for the atonement of sin, and that the bodily resurrection of Jesus confirmed him as a Trinitarian form of God. Such a belief is blasphemy for Jews and Muslims and an obstacle to reconciling the Abrahamic religions.
The true meaning of the resurrection is in the mind of God and beyond church doctrines and dogmas. Christians often cite John 14:6 as proof that Jesus Christ was the way, the truth and the life; but the Gospel of John is mystical and symbolic. It presents Jesus as the Logos, or the Word of God, not as the one and only human manifestation of God.
Easter is a time to ponder the meaning of the resurrection, and it can be understood in different ways. Jesus announced the coming kingdom of God, with salvation based on following God’s Word of love and reconciliation, rather than on belief in Jesus as the alter ego of God. All who believe that Jesus was a great prophet can share Easter as a resurrection of God’s living Word.
The greatest commandment is taken from the Hebrew Bible, was taught by Jesus, and is a common word of faith for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Reconciliation doesn’t require conforming all beliefs to one true religion, only belief in a common word of faith that’s the way, the truth and the life. The Word of God was resurrected at Easter. God’s reconciling love is universal and supersedes all religions, and can bring God’s kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.
Jesus called his disciples to follow him as the Word of God, not to worship him as God. See http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2018/05/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on_26.htm; also, http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2017/04/the-relevance-of-jesus-and-irrelevance.html.
On Jesus as the Logos and the universal Word of God, see Musings of a Maverick Methodist on the Irony of the Logos in John's Gospel at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/02/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-irony.html; also http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/02/musings-of-maverick-methodist-on-jesus.html.
On Seeing the Resurrection in a New Light, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/04/seeing-resurrection-in-new-light.html.
The root words for at/one/ment relate to being reconciled at one with God and our neighbors, as in the greatest commandment and a common word of faith. Forgiveness is one way to be reconciled, but in its Christian application, making salvation dependent on exclusivist beliefs is more divisive than reconciling.
On Paul’s exclusivist doctrine of atonement in Christianity, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2019/03/musings-on-evolution-of-christian.html.
On The greatest commandment as a common word of faith, see Musings on a Common Word of Faith and Politics as a Means of Reconciliation at http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2023/04/musings-on-common-word-of-faith-and.html, and at http://www.jesusmeetsmuhammad.com/2015/01/jesus-meets-muhammad-is-there-common.html.
On The Kingdom of God, Politics and the Church, see http://www.religionlegitimacyandpolitics.com/2015/03/the-kingdom-of-god-politics-and-church.html.