My online ministry is pretty evenly divided between people who subscribe to Christianity and those who would not categorize themselves as such. What unifies all of us however, is our belief in God and his/her role in our life even though we all have very different categories for how we understand “God.” We are all touching something transcendent, but what is it exactly?
When my more conservative Christian brothers and sister’s hear me use language that isn’t “Jesusy” enough, they question whether or not my belief is valid or whether or not it is even “Christian.” It’s the same for those of other faiths when I use language that depicts the messianic story or when I talk about the Cosmic Christ. They may wonder at times if my content is just a trojan horse designed to trick people into Christianity.
But if you pull back and look at our world you can see that nearly all people are very skeptical of religious language. They are afraid they are getting sucked into something, or that if they believe something then they will be come weirdos.
Just look at the many fundamental beliefs within all religious systems and how “odd” they make people. Many religious people are very distinct from others in the culture and this is often seen as badge of honor for some people and sects.
The problems stems from the idea that Christianity was intended to be its own new religion. Jesus didn’t come to establish a new religion into which his disciples would now have to get others to convert. It was more about completing rather than converting. Nonetheless, the conversion idea is at the heart of why so many Christians read the bible as if its characters were contemporary Christians too.
Abraham was not a Christian. But what exactly was Abraham’s faith in God?
The new testament speaks about the great faith of Abraham (Hebrews 11:8). But what was that faith? It’s not like he had any idea of Jesus. In fact, Abraham precedes the ten commandments, mount Sinai, and the giving of the law. He may have been the patriarch of Judaism, Islam, or Christianity but he himself was not any one of them.
Abraham had a faith in God. Just like many modern people. Simple and without a religion piled on top of it.
It was certainly a simple belief that some force, or voice, or power was overseeing, guiding, leading, promising and engaging with him. Abraham didn’t go to church, or temple, or to a Mosque. He just trusted this “thing” that spoke to him deep inside.
To me, that’s not weird. In fact I think that is where I believe we all start, and why I use language that brings us back to this simple dynamic. I try and free our language from the formative systems and open us up to our own faith experience with the power that seems to speaking to each of us uniquely.
The Bible goes on to tell us that this power, voice, influence or force is called “the Christ”. Some know it as the “Spirit” (pneuma: breath, wind). It claims that the power that caused the water to flow out of the rock and save the thirsty exiles of Egypt was “Christ” (1 Cor 10:4). It claims that the power that saved people from the bites of the fiery serpents was “Christ” (John 3:14-15, 1 Cor 10:9).
So let me put all this together for you.
1. Jesus didn’t come to make a new religion. He came to complete all religions as he does Judaism, by showing that the power behind the religion is “the Christ”. He came to deconstruct religions back into a pure faith because the rules were killing and marginalizing people. Early Christians didn’t stop being Jews. Centurions, samaritans, and others all were saved and remained as they were. In fact this is Paul’s exhortation that we remain in the state that we are called (1 Cor 7:20).
2. Being saved and converted are not the same thing.
Furthermore, this proves that throughout the scripture and our world there is much evidence that people are being saved by Christ who have no idea who or what this power is (Numbers 21:9, Matthew 25:44). In fact the early Jews were so upset with Christianity because it was claiming that Yahweh, the god of the Jews, was now saving non-jews and they didn’t even have to covert to Judaism. Try superimposing that idea on modern Christianity as in: “God is saving non-Christians without requiring them to convert.”
Abraham was saved by the power of the cosmic Christ. So were the Israelites, Moses and countless others in history. Paul too was saved by Christ as well and yet none of these people knew Jesus. In fact no modern person knows Jesus. We all know about the stories. but any encounter we have is actually with the power Jesus personified, the Christ. We are all virtual disciples.
This means that all people, regardless of how they define the experience are actually having a Christ experience. If it could work for Abraham with his pagan child sacrifice paradigms, and it can work for an uber-Jew like Paul, and it can work for Roman soldiers, then it must also be working for Buddhist’s, Scientists, Muslim’s, tribal people, and even you and me.
Whatever that connection to the transcendent that we are able to perceive, is the voice of the Christ calling us, reaching us and inviting us into a deeper, and more expansive experience with love (vertically and horizontally).
If we are able to follow this voice, like Abraham, we will always meet the Christ. If we get derailed in the religious systems and they become the surrogate voice, we will always miss the Christ.
That is how we can know the real Church, meaning “the called out ones.” They are those who follow the voice (like Abraham) and recognize it in others regardless of their diverse introduction to it.
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