Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Love Before Fire

The following article is reposted from The Beautiful Adventure.

Elisha is a communist, an anarchist, and a pirate. He's a lover of people, God, and everything else. He currently lives with the Karen people on the Thai-Burma border, and has been my best friend since we were just whippersnappers.
 - shanti

What we believe about God, salvation, and Judgment have radical implications on our day to day life. Mainstream Christianity teaches about a god who loves humanity so much, that he sacrificed his own son in our place. Because of this sacrifice, we are saved from the Wrath and Judgment of God, so long as we believe. We must have faith in Jesus, the son of the god of Christianity. We must believe that we are inheritly evil, and that we are in need of a savior. We must have faith that this god sent his son to die for an evil humanity, and that through his death, we are free from the wrath of God. Anyone who does not accept the free Gift of Salvation, given to us by the death of Jesus will be under the Judgment of God. And what is this Judgment?

An eternity in Hell for a lifetime of mistakes. 

This is Judgment, and unless you believe in Jesus, this will be your fate. This, according to most Christians is why Jesus had to die. He had to die because we are evil, and somebody needed to be punished. He needed to die because we are full of sin, and only by His death, can we be free. 

But what if Judgment and Wrath and Hell have little to do with the death of Jesus? What if his death had tangible, realistic implications in how we ought to live our lives, compelling us to be more loving, compassionate, and forgiving to those around us? Maybe Jesus didn't die to save us from the wrath of an angry god. And maybe Jesus didn't even die to save us from our sin. Maybe the death of Jesus has significance that is far more compelling than what we were taught to believe. 

And, what might that significance be, if not "to save us from the wrath of God"? Maybe the reason Jesus died and rose again is to show us that another way of doing life is possible. A way of life that transcends violence as a means to peace, and a way of life that refuses to watch in complacency as the world goes to hell. Jesus was killed because he gave a shit. He stood up for the poor, outcasts, and sinners. He pointed out all of the injustices of the current(and still current) religious institution, exposed the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, and taught of another way of life, which he called 'The Kingdom of God'. He refused to pay homage to Caesar, who was than considered to be 'Messiah' and 'King'. His blatant and offensive remarks to both the Roman and Jewish authorities caused him to be both loved and hated. And because of this, he was killed.

But, Death is not the end of the story. As the story goes, Jesus didn't stay dead. And, why might this be? Because the Power of Life and Love and Creativity and Joy are stronger than Death. Jesus rose from the Grave to show us that we too, have Power over Death. That we too, can live another way of Life. That even if we die, the fruits of our Life will live on forever.

When I hear religious folks talk about how grateful they are that Jesus saved them from Hell, I can't help but think, " That's great and all, but its not very compelling." That belief doesn't transform me into a more loving, compassionate, courageous person. That belief doesn't compel me to love my brothers and sisters. It just makes me feel like shit, because Jesus had to die instead of me. 

 But when I believe Jesus died because he believed in his message, and that he rose again to show us that another way of life is possible, a way of life that overcomes even death, I feel compelled to change. I am encouraged to boldly live the life Jesus modeled. I feel like I have the courage to stand up for the poor and marginalized. 

What we believe about Jesus makes all the difference in how we live our lives. The question is, as Rob bell says, "...which path has the capacity to transform you into a more loving, peaceful, courageous person."