The Jesus Movement: Reclaiming Christianity in Jesus' Name, part 2

Christianity has never been a homogenous religion. In truth, none of the world’s major religions is homogenous. There are many different forms of Judaism, sects of Islam and schools of Buddhist thought. Once the spiritual founder is gone, the ideas they taught are free to blossom in many different ways. In some sense, I think this speaks to the diversity of God and the needs of our individual spiritual journeys. Hopefully, we are in constant movement toward a more intimate relationship with God. No matter which religion or philosophy we are using to attain a higher state of consciousness, at some point our ideas about God and how we relate to God are going to change. We will need new practices and new challenges to keep us spiritually invested. This is all to the good.

For the first few hundred years of Christianity, this diversity was accepted and it seems encouraged. Paul wrote letters to early churches that were incredibly diverse in style. People from all walks of life gathered together to learn more about Jesus and his teachings. One of the earliest hallmarks of Christianity was the idea that all are welcome, no exceptions. Paul states over and over that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, for example). The earliest form of the church accepted everyone, no questions asked. Modern Christians might do well to remember this most basic fundamental (if I might reclaim that word) of the faith.

If we investigate more deeply, we’ll see that the Jewish foundations that Jesus and Paul drew from are the seeds of this universalist idea. The Rabbinic tradition was that the Bible (at that time the Hebrew Bible, the “Old Testament”) could be interpreted any number of ways—and should be interpreted any number of ways, as long as the conclusion drawn from the interpretation revealed a loving, compassionate God, and led the interpreter to acts of loving kindness—chesed. 
Is this not exactly how Jesus teaches and acts? He loves everyone to a fault, constantly getting himself in trouble because the love of God is flowing through him so powerfully. Even Jesus can’t control it! He heals on the Sabbath, he is kind to society’s outcasts, he speaks to women at the equivalent of the pickup joint of his time, all to share the idea that God is real, God is the ultimate change agent, God is love, and God is with us—every one of us, no matter our station in life. In fact, Jesus makes it clear that the worse off we are, the more God is with us, struggling with us, suffering with us, leading us out of our misery by giving us strength, courage and hope.


Modern Christianity still takes on many forms, but when most non-Christians are asked to describe Christianity, they talk about closed-minded bigots more concerned with creating their own wealth than giving it all away as Jesus asks. Christians who are truly vested in the spirit of Jesus understand that wealth should be distributed equally, that war is never the answer to conflict resolution, and that caring about others more than caring about ourselves is the foundation of the religion.

Christians can have different ideas about the divinity of Jesus. They can discuss whether or not Jesus was a real, historical person or simply a literary invention. They can argue about the nature of God and the Trinity, and that’s all good, even respectful of the Jewish tradition from which Christianity was born. What Christians absolutely cannot do though, is forget the fundamentals of the faith, which have nothing to do with worship styles, architecture, or the color of the carpet in the narthex (or even whether or not there is a narthex).

The fundamentals of Christianity are simple: Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. If we’re not doing that, we simply shouldn’t call ourselves Christians.

Meditation: God that is the being of everything, love the world through me.

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