Love is the message of Jesus of Nazareth, the Biblical Jesus Christ. Love. That’s the point. And for some reason, love is a quality that humankind is reluctant to embrace. It has always been that way, and it seems in modern times that we haven’t changed a bit. We are still resistant to the idea of genuine love in all its varied forms. We dance all around through the scriptures, this way and that, making them fit into whatever scenario we feel works for us at the time. I truly believe that most Christians greatly revere, admire and are inspired by the teachings of Jesus Christ, but how often do we as individuals actually delve into cultivating true love within our own hearts as he demands we do–and live that love? It’s not impossible to do. And it seems like a reasonable request. Why do we, even now, not want to embrace the core of what Jesus’ teachings prescribe?
I say that and some of you may not want to believe that it is true. But look at the news. Look how people who say they are Christians are behaving. Listen to what they say. Is that love?
Do not make the mistake of reinterpreting love as some twisted, self-righteous excuse to inflict a hateful judgment, pointing and crying out “Us” and “Them” in the name of God. Being a judgmental ass is not righteousness, rather it is self-righteous, vain, pompous, hateful ignorance-and it has nothing to do with love. Just a reminder, the word “Satan” means the accuser. So be careful of the finger pointing.
We cannot base the depth of Christianity on the screaming voices of those who have labeled themselves as Christians, but preach violence, hatred, destruction and discrimination. We cannot base our understanding of any religion on such faulty views. It would be wonderful if everyone who said they were Christian actually acted like one–and better yet imitated Jesus in his non-violent, patient and loving manner. But as we can clearly see, that is not what is happening in the world.
Love is scary. Love makes us vulnerable. And so we are immensely frightened by the concept of sincerely opening our hearts in this cruel world, full of cruel people. However, it is paradoxical that if we do not open our hearts, we instead become one of those who are cruel. That is the power of fear. By not doing what we know we should we become what we do not want to be–we become what we fear the most. In the end when all is said and done, if it ain’t love–or our thoughts, speech and actions are not done with loving intent–then it’s vanity and a waste of time. Love is all we can keep in the end, yet love is never a possession.
For the last 30 years exactly, I have been working every day, struggling through my own issues, through the years of having suicidal depression, dysfunction, intense anger and self-hate in order to find my way to love. And I’d like to share what I have learned on the subject, and most of it has come by way of studying scriptures, sacred texts, learning to forgive myself and practicing what I preach. It has taken being open to what I need to learn. Truth requires an open mind and an open heart.
First, as a Christian who embraces God by every name and honors God in all to the best of my capacity, what I have found is in the New Testament the most important aspect is the teachings of Jesus, which focus on love and compassion. He keeps things simple. “Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself.” “Judge not lest ye be judged.” And importantly he says repeatedly, “Seek truth, the truth will set you free.”
The way is simple.
Love is indeed found in greater truth. When one looks for truth, we can find answers and solutions–and eventually we find wisdom. And while stumbling into wisdom via our search for truth, we discover higher clarity to why there is in fact inherent love and divinity within ourselves. In the realization of that inherent quality of indwelling divinity, a light shines on how we can better become vessels of love; and it becomes obvious why love and compassion are so intensely important.
But what is love? What is the definition of love in the New Testament?
To find love within ourselves is to understand the nature of mercy. Mercy is a wisdom spawn of imperfection, yet mercy is perfect in itself. Love is inseparable from mercy and wisdom, and all are divine perfections–not to be mistaken with the idea of human perfection which is a complete falsehood. We are not on the planet to pretend to be perfect people. We are all screwed up–every one of us is broken or at least has been broken at some point. If we can’t admit to that, then God help us all.
Don’t kid yourself into thinking that you must act like your are perfect because you are this or that religion. You aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. But that’s the whole crazy delusion. That’s not what divine perfection is about. Divine perfection is about love and mercy. There is no way to win approval in this world of human beings. If acceptance and approval is what one thinks of as perfection, then that person is in big trouble. We can go our entire lives thinking that we need to live up to the standards of others. At best that will lead to being permanently insecure and completely at the whim of what everyone else’s delusions dictate. Doesn’t sound appealing to me. Instead, we should focus on what we are at our core and transform into the highest joyful version of that merely for the sake of goodness and love itself. What can we do to improve or be happier about our own life and the lives of everyone we care for, if it does not begin and end with making an ongoing effort to exude common decency, respect for the sacredness of all life, love, tolerance and compassion?
“Beloved, Love one another as God has loved you.”
And this, “I want mercy, not sacrifice.” That statement is in the New Testament in many places for good reason. “I want mercy, not sacrifice.”
Think about it.
It is in recovering these divine perfections within that will simultaneously bring us into the unity with the pure God Mind and God Heart. That is who we really are. But that takes a great bit of lifelong effort, which also might be why so few attempt to be like Christ-like. It’s way easier to be a judgmental, angry, hateful, reactive ass. However, being a judgmental ass is not a fulfilled, joyful occupation; nor is it a comprehensively positive solution to life as we know it. It only makes life worse for everyone, including ourselves. To refine our human experience into one of love and mercy, we must look at ourselves and forgive our own idiosyncrasies and numerous faults. We do that with understanding. If we can do that for ourselves, we can do that for others. And that is mercy plain and simple. And the entire effort is one of true love. At some point, our own interior love knows we have no right to judge anyone.
The Old Testament establishes what I just said. Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
If God created humankind in his own image, then at the core of humanity there is the perfect God within–humanity is innately good. We are all inherently good. However, we have to work to rediscover that good. That is our choice to do. Being a good person is not an immediate entitled privilege reserved just for us because we say we are saved by Jesus. Being saved by Jesus requires us to make an effort to do our part. If we are not doing our part, then that’s also a choice. There is always cause and effect to everything we do. If we choose to call ourselves Christian, but not try in any shape or form to be Christ-like, that’s not a good statement to our own commitment to being saved. We have to work hard to make good choices that bring good into our own lives, our family’s lives and into the world around us. The world around us is a projection of how we think and what we focus on. We have to learn how to cope in a radically distorted vision of what we think we know of the world, through working through our own egotistical issues that shroud us in darkness, rather than light. “Let your eye be filled with light, so that your whole body will be filled with light as well.”
We have to choose to learn how to move through emotions with emotional literacy. That takes wisdom. And to find wisdom, we must develop discernment.
The number one thing I have learned about discernment is simply–if it isn’t compassionate, it isn’t from God.
Focus is everything. If we go around focused on evil, we will have lots of evil. If we focus on good, if we focus on God, then we will have light. It doesn’t mean the whole world will willingly transform to our higher vision of love and light. But it doesn’t mean it won’t either. Our participation in necessary.
If we think we are flawed at our core, from evil origins from the beginning of time, then what hope is there to become like Jesus Christ? Don’t take away the only chance you have at healing, at wholeness–at holiness–by thinking your way into impossibility. That would be hell on earth. We must find our own sacredness for ourselves.
Original sin does not mean we are evil at the core. It means we are ignorant and require truth in order to be free from our shroud of ignorance. Ignorance is something we are taught-something we erroneously embrace. We are subtly taught ignorance by living in the world, while thinking that the world around us is truth. The world cannot determine effective positive rules in which for us to successfully live by, no matter what we see or experience. The rules of the world are deceptive and primarily all together wrong because they are based on distorted perception, emotional reactivity and ignorance in its most primal form. There are deeper truths; an absolute truth.
We can see perfection in the world in beauty and love. So it’s not that we can’t learn or grow by what we witness or experience, but we must work at becoming more aware of what we are thinking, saying and doing. We must evaluate why we think, say and do what we do. What is our intent? Personal ego power or higher love?
Jesus says we, human beings, can become just like him and then some. “You too can do all that I can do and more; because I go now to the Father.”
Let’s contemplate this, a commonly read quote from 1St Corinthians about love. Most people have heard or read the scripture I’m mentioning at some point in his or her life as a Christian. And most would feel the power in it, because it provokes an obvious truth about love. And I will say up front, Paul, who was formerly Saul, formerly a zealot who brutally killed early Christians as heretics before converting himself to Christianity, had a lot to say on a lot of subjects. Honestly, he was not always in accordance with Jesus’ teachings himself in his writings. So teachers of Biblical Scripture recommend using critical thinking when studying the bible.
As from Wikipedia: Critical thinking, also called critical analysis, is clear, rational thinking involving critique. Its details vary amongst those who define it. According to Barry K. Beyer (1995), critical thinking means making clear, reasoned judgments. During the process of critical thinking, ideas should be reasoned, well thought out, and judged. The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defines critical thinking as the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.’
All I can say is that Paul, the author of 1st Corinthians, was a man of his time. He didn’t care for the rights of women, because the society he lived in at the time did not care for women, and additionally they were a culture that also kept slaves. Paul squelched the voices of women in the church, and his writings on the subject are still used as a way to control women presently. He didn’t recommend being married, among other things, and he also made a statement that can be horribly misinterpreted about our bodies and sexuality being evil. But we are talking about love. At best, he often had hard views. And there were only so many ways to verbalize extremely deep ideas with the language of his time, which has been translated over and over again for thousands of years.
With that said, Paul worked tirelessly unto death to redeem his former violent actions and went on to become a beacon of Christianity. Regardless, even though I truly relate to and am inspired by much of what Paul my say, I do not confuse Paul for Jesus.
On some subjects he was divinely inspired to the utmost degree, as with the scripture below. I do respect greatly his words of truth when they are based in the wisdom of love. This is a scripture that inspires true love and it well sums up the meaning of love in the New Testament.
1 Though I command languages both human and angelic — if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.
2 And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains — if I am without love, I am nothing.
3 Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even give up my body to be burned — if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
4 Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited,
5 it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.
6 Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.
7 It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.
8 Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away with.
9 For we know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly;
10 but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with.
11 When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways.
12 Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.
13 As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.
This is love.
To find love, we must become love. And to become love, we must be willing to see our own negative ego habits, and we must forgive ourselves. We must listen and learn; and we do that with mercy. We listen to and monitor what comes out of our minds, hearts and mouths, and we make it our goal to weed out what isn’t compassionate. It is important to treat our own psyche with compassion. Our hatred and anger are habitual cycles that return only with stronger force if they are not handled with compassion and forgiveness.
This interior work is the work of love. This is the highest goal in life, to seek truth and embody love.
Love takes courage and commitment. Love is a force that requires mastery and determination, but even a child can do it and children do it so wonderfully. “Let the children come unto me, for it is only in becoming like a child that one will know the kingdom of God.”
Love often requires us to face down demons of fear, and conquer them with faith.
Love certainly requires us to face truth about ourselves, and in facing that truth we find even greater love because we will find freedom from the deceptions we have mistakenly embraced that chronically poison our lives, and give rise to self-hatred, destructive behavior and self-sabotage. By cultivating pure hearted love, our minds align with the mind of God. The world may still be a sad, horrific place, but it all can be overcome with love. For in love we find our joy. And love is all that remains in the end. Love begets love.
“Love conquers all.”