The Emergent Jesus Way (Part 2): Love, God, and Oneness
Sunday, February 10, 2013
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that [Jesus] answered them well, he asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"
Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Then the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that 'he is one, and besides him there is no other'; and 'to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,' and 'to love one's neighbor as oneself,' -- this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."
When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."
(Mark 12:28-34, NRSV)
In this flawless diamond from within the soil of Scripture we have the Jesus Way, and in it the very essence of the Gospel, and the very substance of the "kingdom of God." And what's striking in this passage is that Jesus directly links achievement of the "kingdom of God" with embracing and mindfully living the ethos of Love expressed in the Greatest Commandment.
In the first post in this series, The Emergent Jesus Way (Part 1): Rising Above The Canopy, I offered a revisioning of the Gospel, and a new understanding of "kingdom," as follows: through the conscious and mindful embrace of Love (and God is Love) we can transform our lives and thereby create Oneness within ourselves, with one another, and with our living world. This is the Gospel, and Oneness is the "kingdom."
WHAT IS LOVE?
Love has undoubtedly been the dominant subject of poetry for literally thousands of years, such that today we have a vast repository of diverse word imagery depicting the feeling of romantic love; the quality of filial (family) devotion; the character of deep friendship and principled human concern; and the erotic passion of sexual intimacy. What is common to all of these aspects of love is that they involve relationship. In particular, love is the element that binds relationships by strengthening connectedness and nurturing unity.
But poetics aside, we can discern that Love is three things: a state of being, an inner sensation, and an outward expression.
As a state of being, Love is joyful and creative harmony unhindered by fear, discord, or destructiveness. This can be a state of being within the self as well as in relationships, both with others and with Creation.
As an inner sensation, Love is a feeling that can be informed by principle, emotion, or sentiment. Principled Love is felt as selfless concern and sincere regard for the well-being of others. This kind of Love is typically experienced in friendships, toward neighbors, or for fellow human beings in general. Emotional Love is felt as devoted affection for a loved one, such as a family member, a partner or spouse, or even in certain extremely close friendships. Sentimental Love is felt as romantic or erotic affection toward another.
As an outward expression, Love acts to facilitate harmony, wellness, and joy, and is manifested by such things as compassion, grace, mindfulness, integrity, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, charity, humility, mental and physical self-discipline, and sexual intimacy. This kind of Love can be expressed creatively for the self, for others, and for Creation.
In all of these things, Love can be summarized as the universal element and essence of harmony, inspiration, and communion. It is the very nature and purpose of Life.
WHAT IS GOD?
I stand by one theological statement, and no other: God is Love.
I have a saying: I express my faith in poetry, I live it in prose. This means that I may occasionally speak of "God" in personal terms, such as "he" or "she." But my understanding and knowledge of God, which derives from a deep personal experience, is very different.
It goes without saying that almost all Christians understand "God" to be a deity, the supreme being who created the universe and who is sovereign over all Creation. Traditional Christian theology defines God as a trinity of "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Where "Son" is concerned, this refers to Jesus Christ, who is often referred to as "God the Son."
I reject trinitarian theology. It is a human invention attached to an imaginative religious ideology, and belief in it has for centuries been advanced -- often by means of terrible violence -- as the standard of "true faith." As Emergents rise above the canopy of traditional Christianity, we must do away with ancient and spiritually insufficient notions that no longer resonate with evolved understanding and insight, and that have proven to be more cause for division through fear and ignorance rather than unity through grace and love.
In a post I wrote several months ago titled My Experience of God and How I Pray, I briefly shared what I don't mean when I speak of God, and what I do mean when I speak of God, as follows:
[W]hat I don't mean when I speak of God: I don't mean a person, a being, or a personality of cosmic omnipotence or omniscience, such as the one from certain Biblical stories.
[W]hat I do mean when I speak of God: God is the living essence of Love; the very Power of Life that pervades, impels, and sustains all Creation; the living totality of Oneness; being-ness itself; a living presence for certain, but not necessarily a consciousness as we might perceive it.
At present, this is as far as I am willing to go to illuminate my theology of God is Love. The "what" of God cannot be sufficiently defined. To go any further than this would be to risk creating "God" in human image. And we've had enough of that.
What, then, does it mean to "love God"?
If Love is the universal element and essence of harmony, inspiration, and communion, then to love God is to be in harmony with Love, to be inspired to live life by Love, and to be in communion with Love. To love God is to embody Love. This is Oneness, which is the nature and purpose of Life.
WHAT IS ONENESS?
I have stated that Oneness is the aim of the Gospel, that it is the "kingdom of God." Oneness is the ultimate vision and mission of the Jesus Way. Oneness within ourselves, with one another, and with our living world.
But what is Oneness?
Put simply, Oneness is the achievement of Love. It is the condition of Life where the love of God overcomes brokenness, and defeats fear and its destructive effects. It is harmony out of disharmony. It is order out of disorder. It is unity out of division. It is creation out of destruction.
Oneness is light out of darkness.
Oneness is the condition of life where people exist and coexist in unity and harmony free of oppression and destructive conflict. It is characterized by creative wholeness, balance, and order within ourselves, with one another, and with our living world. By its very nature, Oneness opposes the destructive human heritage of fear which causes terrible division, stratifies our fellow human beings according to class, encourages glorification of the self at the expense of others, and destroys the very World which sustains us and of which we are a part.
Oneness is our natural purpose and destiny as human beings. It is where all people are equal brothers and sisters, where genuine humility and self-discipline overcome addiction to recklessness and ego, and where division, indifference, and destructive conflict are done away with, and peace, grace, and mercy exist among all and within all.
Oneness can be achieved. The "kingdom of God" is within us all. We need only awaken ourselves to it by emptying ourselves of our brokenness, and consciously and mindfully embracing Love. That is how we transform our lives. That is how we create Oneness. This is the Gospel.
But how do we empty ourselves of brokenness? How do we embrace Love? How do we love God? How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? How do we actually practice the Greatest Commandment, and live the Jesus Way?
I will be discussing these subjects in the next articles in this series.
I absolutley believe Jesus is the man to follow.
His way is the way.
I like how one Pauline diamond says that the only faith that counts is the one that expresses itself through love.
I have recently embraced doubt and skepticism as part of my faith.
The only thing I too am sure about is that God (however we define this) is love.
Paraphrasing John, whoever claims to follow Jesus but does not love is deceived, no matter how intellectual and orthodox he/she may be.
Can't wait till the next post...
Rules, on the other hand, are so much easier. They appeal to spiritual and intellectual laziness, which can potentially become corrupted and lead to division and exclusivism. That's what we have in traditional Christianity today.
When you have a religion of rules, life becomes a function of simply getting the rules right (which then includes demanding that others get the rules right), rather than being a living, free, and joyful participation in the unfolding of Love.