Good Morning Beloved…
A cowboy, who just moved to Wyoming from Texas, walks into a bar and orders three mugs of Bud. He sits in the back of the room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finishes them, he comes back to the bar and orders three more.
The bartender approaches and tells the cowboy, “You know, a mug goes flat after I draw it. It would taste better if you bought one at a time.”
The cowboy replies, “Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is an Airborne Ranger, the other is a Navy Seal, both serving overseas somewhere. When we all left our home in Texas, we promised that we’d drink this way to remember the days when we drank together. So I’m drinking one beer for each of my brothers and one for myself.”
The bartender admits that this is a nice custom, and leaves it there.
The cowboy becomes a regular in the bar, and always drinks the same way. He orders three mugs and drinks them in turn.
One day, he comes in and only orders two mugs. All the regulars take notice and fall silent. When he comes back to the bar for the second round, the bartender says, “I don’t want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your loss.”
The cowboy looks quite puzzled for a moment, then a light dawns in his eyes and he laughs. “Oh, no, everybody’s just fine,” he explains, “It’s just that my wife and I joined the Baptist Church and I had to quit drinking. Hasn’t affected my brothers though…”
“You will know we are Christian by…”
When I was in college and searching for many things about myself, on occasion, I attended Folk Mass. I was in and out of the Catholic tradition for some time at that time, not finding what worked for me but still wanting SOMETHING!
Folk Mass was always up beat and had some really nice music. One of the songs we would sing was titled “You will know we are Christians by our love.”
Do any of you know it?
Listen to the words: I’ve taken the repeats out to make it shorter….but you’ll get the gist.
We are one in the Spirit, We are one in the Lord;
And we pray that all unity, May one day be restored.
We will walk with each other; we will walk hand in hand,
And together we’ll spread the news, That God is in our land.
We will work with each other; we will work side by side,
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity, and save each man’s pride
And the chorus is: And they’ll know we are Christians, by our love, by our love, Yes, they’ll know we are Christians By our love.
We could exchange Christian with Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, etc., it would still be relevant. It would still and most importantly, be SPIRITUAL.
This song has been playing through my mind for some time now and so, I figured I needed to turn it into a Lesson. So, here we go…
So I ask, what does it mean to be a Christian?
Well, lately, it may mean something completely different than what it started out as; and if you know anything of the early ‘church,’ you know that there were many ideas of what it was supposed to mean to be Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. In the beginning, there were many factions of “Christians,” until one ‘belief’ was chosen to be the legal Religion of the State and all others we considered illegal. Don’t get me started on THAT!
We could look at the dark times that has followed that title, Christian…but we won’t. Not here, not now. WHY? Because that is past. That is history. WE are not looking at what happened. WE need to look at today…and to the future. We need to ask ourselves, each one, what it means to be a follower of the TRUTH that Jesus taught.
Unity is a combination of teachings of the Christ, known as Jesus. Let’s look those words, Jesus, Jesus Christ, and the Christ. Jesus is the man, the historical person of the New Testament times. Jesus is a Way Shower or Elder Brother who provides a direction and an example for all humankind to follow.
Christ is a title added to Jesus’ name. The word comes from the Greek Christos, meaning “anointed.” Jesus was so called because He was considered anointed by God.
He recognized His own divinity, but more importantly, He recognized the divinity of all God’s creation. He knew that God anoints each person, “you anoint my head with oil,” and repeatedly directs us to recognize our own God nature. “You are the light of the world,” (Mt. 5: 14). Paul adds to this idea: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
The Christ is the presence of God with which each person is anointed at creation. It is the eternal essence of God that is our true spiritual nature. It can be called the spark of God that ignites the human flame. And I repeat…at CREATION…we are born with it!
Christ is the name to describe the universal spiritual energy that is common to all people. The same energy has other names in other traditions, but its Truth is universal.
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore were clear and succinct in their realization of the Christ within: Charles states, “Christ is the mind of God individualized.” And Myrtle says, “Christ is the life principle within each of us.”
So you can see that the Christ within is actually the very presence of God at the core of our beings, that It does its work by simply being recognized. Remember that we remain spiritual beings no matter what appearances may suggest to the contrary.
We all know that the Fillmore’s researched the Spiritual Cultures of the day when they came across the teaching of New Thought. They wanted to make sure that when they said, “This is what I believe,” it was what they believed.
And Charles always said he reserved his right to change his mind, which tells me he questioned his beliefs throughout his life, yet, he still retained those fundamental beliefs they started with because they still fit.
Through that research, many of the teachings of Unity are very similar, if not the same as, the teachings of the Eastern Masters. Meditation is part of our prayer process, we believe each and every one of us can and should go to the God of their belief, directly, no intermediary; no priest. We believe that each and every one of us is responsible for their thoughts and therefore their lives.
The Buddha said: “In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?”
Love is the main lesson in the teachings of Jesus, yet here the Buddha says the same thing.
That thought is reinforced by Bob Goff, “It will be our love, not our opinions, which will be our greatest contribution to the world.”
Christianity does not have a monopoly on the Christ within. We recognize it in all people, whatever nationality they may be or on whatever spiritual path they may walk.
The Christ is the universal presence of God at the center of every individual. It is God’s gift to you. WE in Unity recognize that there are many names and descriptions that are used to attempt to connect and understand that Divine Spirit. God, Spirit, Universe, Buddha, Goddess, Divine, Jesus, Muhammed….as we are individual sparks of that presence, that is how many ways we relate to that Spirit.
We are born as creations of God to express our Christ Selves. In fact, it is our only responsibility because if we do this, as we express that innate Presence, we will be loving, compassionate, forgiving, gracious, joy-filled, and all the other things that are part of our divine design.
St. Teresa of Avila says it well (interject whatever word you resonate with in to relate to the ALL that is): “Christ has no body now on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours; Ours are the eyes that look out with Christ’s compassion on the world, ours the feet with which he goes about doing good; Ours are the hands with which he is to bless humanity now.”
And THAT is what it means to be CHRISTIAN.
Unity is not your everyday Christian church! Most Unity’s don’t even use the label ‘church.’ It is not your traditional Christianity. It is Practical Christianity….taking the teachings of Jesus, and making them useful to daily living.
So, in that respect, we ARE Christians. But we always, unfortunately, have to say something to differentiate us from traditional Christians. Because we do not worship Jesus…that was not his purpose or his desire. His purpose was and is to show us the way to re-member who and what we are.
So, the Fillmore’s chose Jesus’ teaching as the teaching they wished to practice and teach about, but they put an additional spin on it…they said, let’s look at it metaphysically. That too, differentiates us from traditional Christian churches
When we look at things metaphysically, we change the perspective. And, that makes all the difference in the world. For example: Charles said:
“Have faith in the innate goodness of all men and all conditions. Do not condemn, no matter how great the provocation. What you think, you create in your own consciousness. Enlarge your range of vision, and you may see good in what now seems evil. God is good and God is all, hence there can be no real condition but the good.”
When we look at things metaphysically, we look at them through our own eyes, through our own hearts. We look at how it feels, fits, belongs to us…each one, individually. That makes it more personal.
In this era of religious pluralism, the question often arises: Is it possible to be Christian and still honor all paths to God? Doesn’t it have to be one way or the other?
If you follow the teachings of Jesus, rather than the teachings about Jesus, the answer appears to be yes. If you study what Jesus taught and did, you see that he was, in the words of Bible scholar Marcus Borg, “radically inclusive.” He said to love one another, and he exemplified that by honoring and caring about people of all backgrounds.
Spiritual leaders through the ages have asserted that Jesus was not just the example and advocate for Christians, but for everyone. Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, once said: “Jesus gave humanity the magnificent purpose and the single objective toward which we all ought to aspire. I believe that he belongs not solely to Christianity, but to the entire world, to all lands and races.” (Incidentally, Gandhi also said, “If Jesus came to earth again, he would disown many things that are being done in the name of Christianity.”)
In his book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, Marcus Borg writes: “Jesus saw the divinity in all people, and he challenged all people to see the good, the God-self, in all with whom they associated.”
Indeed, Jesus purposefully rebelled against prejudice and discrimination. Writes Borg: “One of the hallmarks of Jesus’ teachings was his pointed attacks on the purity system. This was the dominant theme in the Jewish social world during his time, and it was focused on creating a world with sharp social boundaries: between pure and impure, righteous and sinner, whole and not whole, male and female, rich and poor, Jew and Gentile. Jesus deliberately replaced the core value of purity with compassion.”
His compassion was notably evident in his habitual participation in an open and inclusive table. Sharing a meal with someone in those days signified mutual acceptance, and, might I say, trust…breaking bread in the Near East was a sacred happening. Jesus ate with the outcasts, the downtrodden—anyone who was considered “impure.” In so doing, he out-pictured a vision of an inclusive community. Through his actions, Jesus demonstrated that all people are welcome at the table of God’s kingdom—and all means all. Jesus was a champion of the oppressed—the living example of unconditional love—and he vehemently opposed exclusionary practices.
We can equally expect that Jesus honored and respected people of other faith traditions. In his best-selling book ‘Discover the Power Within You,’ the late Unity minister Eric Butterworth wrote:
“I have often speculated on what Jesus would have done if he had been seated around a table with a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Muslim and a Shintoist—discussing ultimate Truth. I just can’t believe that Jesus would have said, ‘You must all forsake your beliefs and come and follow me.’ I think he might have pointed out that the differences were chiefly a matter of semantics, and that there is an underlying principle similar to the Christ idea in every religion. I think he would have stressed the basic unity within the diversity of religions, pointing out that the greatest need of all persons is to find that indwelling unity with God, which is found in the principle that we call the Christ, but others call the Buddha Heart or the Goddess, or the Universe….”
As far as we know, Jesus did not say anything negative about other religions. He did, however, sharply criticize his own.
Marcus Borg offers a good example of how Jesus related to other religions in his analysis of the story of the Good Samaritan told in Luke 10:25-37.
On the surface, it appears to be a tale about a kind-hearted humanitarian. A traveler on the way to Jericho falls among thieves and is robbed and severely beaten. Two people pass by and decline to get involved. A third arrives and takes pity on the man. He bandages up his wounds, takes him to an inn, and pays for his care. The teaching seems to be about practicing kindness to strangers, (which is actually a law in the Near East).
But in actuality, Borg emphasizes, this is a radical and subversive story. Because when the traveler—who we assume was a Jew—is robbed and beaten, the two people who pass him by are Jewish (a priest and a Levite, who is a member of the Priestly tribe) and the rescuer is a non-Jew—a Samaritan. To Jews at that time, the Samaritans were the despised people. They were considered untouchables who could do no good. Thus in this simple story, Jesus is forcing the question: “Do you really know what’s good and what’s bad? Who are the righteous and who are the not righteous?”
Imagine the impact of the Good Samaritan story today if it were told about a traditional Christian whose brethren pass him by, but who is then generously brought back to health and safety by a Muslim stranger. The message is clear: Don’t judge by appearances and, even better, don’t judge at all.
Unity is part of a movement to return to the inclusive teachings and philosophies of Jesus. It is evident in the books, and blogs, and activity on social media. All of these voices, these “believers in exile,” as former Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong calls them, are “trying to find their way back to a feint voice from the past. It’s the voice of a young Jewish carpenter who invited us to discover the Truth for ourselves, and who pointed us in the direction of God.”
The path to God is through believing in, embracing and fully expressing our own unique and eternal spiritual energy. Our innate and eternal Oneness with all that God is constitutes a universal spiritual truth. There are many paths to discovering and embracing that Oneness; Jesus offers one clear path, Buddha another, Muhammad another, etc. What’s essential is the universal spiritual truth itself; the path we choose to follow to reach that essential awareness is up to us. (Even those who consider themselves to be agnostic or atheistic are on a spiritual path toward Christ awareness, whatever their opinions of specific religions may be!)
Unity believes—and understands Jesus to have taught—that “Christ” is not one unique person, but rather the divine essence of every person. So we are not to ‘await’ the Messiah, or to follow another person in the belief that he is uniquely the Christ. We are rather to follow the teachings and example of Jesus to recognize, release and express our own Christ identity—the Oneness with God that is the truth of who we are.
Paul Enso Hillman wrote, “Do you know who I am?
I say ‘namaste’ because I like what it means, not because I am Hindu.
A lot of people here think I am a Christian because they think I talk about Christian values, but the truth is I am really talking about human values.
I’ve been asked if I am a Buddhist, just because I have discovered inner peace.
A lot of my friends are Pagans, and they think I am one too because I say that being in Nature is my idea of going to church.
Do you really want to know what I am? It’s very simple. I don’t need a label to define me. I am a piece of the Universe, sentient and manifested. I AM AWAKE.”
So, are you Christian?