When I talk to a stranger sitting next to me on a plane, I’m occasionally asked what I do for a living. When I say I’m a Unity minister and explain that Unity teaches universal spirituality, I am often quizzed on my take on Jesus.
I’ve thought a lot about that question. Over time, I’ve come to this realization: Jesus came to free humanity from formal religion.
The traditional interpretation of Christianity is that one must believe in and accept Jesus as one’s personal savior to receive favor from God. If you don't, then you are, well, doomed for eternity. This approach has alienated many people and led them to reject anything to do with Jesus and Christianity. Perhaps you can relate to this. I know I do.
Jesus neither taught Christianity, nor was he a Christian. He taught universal spiritual truths that others later converted into a religion. If Jesus were to take a look at the religion that sprung up in his name, he wouldn't recognize most of it, since little of it resembles what he taught or modeled in his life.
Jesus summed up the essence of his teachings when he said, "The Kingdom of Heaven is within." He further stated, "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." As I think about the latter statement, I see in my mind the picture of the "Laughing Jesus" and imagine him telling us, "You too can have this joy in your life and you can have it all of the time."
For that joy to be fully expressed, we must have the right concept of who and what we are: original blessings of Spirit. Any description less than that misrepresents our true nature and being; it blasphemes the presence of God.
Jesus lived to liberate our spirit from the restraints of religion’s doctrines and dogmas by moving us away from the mere letter of the law. He reminded us that, at any time, we can have a direct experience of the qualities of Spirit by releasing ways we may have been taught to reach God. When he said the Kingdom of Heaven - ever-expanding good - is within you, he was letting us know that we don't need to go through an intermediary to connect with God. We have direct access to the joy of our being at all times.
Many people postpone their joy because they believe it is dependent on something outside of them or they will get it in some sweet by and by. But as I was once reminded, "Even if you have nothing to laugh about, laugh on credit." Joy, like the presence of God, is something that is let out from within our own being, regardless of what the external conditions may be at the moment.
A young person came to a New Thought service for the first time. He had never been to such a service before and had only been to churches that told him he was born flawed, pointed out all the ways he was still flawed and said the only way to overcome his flawed nature was to follow their particular path.
At the end of the New Thought service, the young man said he enjoyed the service and got a lot out of it, but he couldn't come back. When asked why he couldn't return, he said, "I felt good at the end of the service instead of guilty, and I can't come to a place where I don't feel guilty when I leave."
Needless to say, there remains a lot of work to do before all of humanity is redeemed from the effects of formal religion. But we can do our part by living the changeless universal principles that transcend religion and by releasing the energy of joy that is freely available. When we do that, we continue the work started by the Master Teacher.
Peace and blessings,