Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

From the time I was a young boy and all the way through my education at the nation's largest Baptist seminary, I was told that the way to have "eternal life" was to accept Jesus as my saviour, invite him into my heart, and believe that he was the son of God who died for my sins. If I did those things, they told me, I would go to heaven (what is heaven, by the way?).

All well and good, but once again I find myself with more questions than answers. I am supposed to accept everything "by faith", yet I really doubt that blind faith in church teachings is what God desires or intends for us. "Seek and you shall find" is what I read from him. So my questions begin... precisely what does it mean to accept Jesus as my saviour, and exactly what is he saving me from? Traditionally, the answer to the latter question is that he is saving me from an eternal damnation in a fiery hell of torture and torment. To accept him as my saviour ostensibly meant that I pray a prayer to God asking him to forgive me, I recognize and admit that Jesus was born from a virgin, lived a perfect life, and was killed on a cross, then to be raised again. All well and good, but scriptures also say that even the demons believe this factual information, and words asking for forgiveness can be cheap. Is that really all there is to it? Would I have eternal security that no man or angel or principality could take away if only I did those few things? Au contraire! I think that is a bastardization of the gospels. It's a ritual - meaningless words and repetitions that make some church happy because they can boast about their successful conversion rate and increased attendance, social programs, and offering receipts.

Jesus himself said that if his disciples loved him they would keep his commands, they would do as he did, and they would "Feed {his} sheep" by loving others more than they loved themselves. So my question then became, regardless of the recitation of words that we prayed in some confessional prayer time, can we truly claim to have any salvation in Jesus if we do not do the aforementioned things? I think not. Jesus went on to say that if any man does not "eat his flesh and drink his blood" he would not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was stating that his disciples, quite literally, needed to become Jesus. To wear him in spirit and in truth. To have their actions look like his actions and to have their motivations be his motivations. He was stating that he needed to become an integral part of their being even down to the cellular level (which is what is fed by ingesting food) for them to have salvation. So his clarion call wasn't a works-based approach, but a call to literally change who you are and what you've become - what you've accepted to be truth.

When I watch the show The Matrix I see that Neo found a form of salvation when he began to accept that the world that existed around him was not truly real and so it was his choice as to whether or not to let that world affect him. Even down to simple rules of physics that could be broken or manipulated, simply because they did not need to apply. How often we saw this with Jesus! Walking on water, raising people from the dead, turning water into wine. And lest we think that Jesus was the only one who saw beyond our own real-life version of the Matrix, reference the prophets Elijah and Elisha or Moses whose actions indicate that they were also able to see beyond the "limitations" of the physical constraints that didn't need to apply. Indeed, I believe that the "salvation" that Jesus talks about has little if anything to do with the avoidance of a fiery hell. It has everything to do with the fact that, from the time we trust him fully and completely, we "see" everything for what it truly is. The truth is revealed. And that is when we are free from needing "stuff" (or even other people) to provide us with happiness, affirmation, or security. That is when there ceases to be any obstacle to block the flow of God's love through us in any manner of expression that he wishes to use. And that is why salvation can start on earth, and not in death. Because how can you take the truth away from someone once they have sought it, seen it, and believed it? His message, given by his example of complete surrender, is to trust God completely and to give up your own aspirations of achievement for him. Because after all, what are you achieving? The world as we know it doesn't truly least it doesn't after we know the truth.

Speaking of believing it, if someone claims to believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life, then trusting him is not an issue. If it is an issue, then they do not believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life. Period. They may have surrendered part of their being to God, but if they don't surrender all of it, they simply don't have the full salvation of Jesus Christ.

Next Post: Was Dante right? What is heaven?

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