Jesus said so many things I wish he hadn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. Just about everyone I know, regardless of whether they’ve ever set foot in a Christian church, thinks Jesus was pretty cool.
Indeed he was. But do you know what he really said?
- Resist not evil.
- Love your enemies.
- Pray for those who persecute you.
- Turn the other cheek.
That takes all the fun out of jeering the political conventions!
And it creates serious confusion when we talk about how to deal with terrorists and mass shooters.
How do we resist not evil when evil seems to be coming after us?
ONE SIMPLE IDEA
I’ve begun to think everything Jesus did or taught carried only one basic message. He said it many times, many ways, and demonstrated it daily. It is this:
Don’t let anything get between you and your spiritual awareness.
Don’t let anything knock you off center or make you forget your oneness with God.
Not money, not family, and not resistance to things labeled bad or evil.
He said, “Seek first the kingdom of God” – that is, pay attention to your spiritual connection – and everything else will fall into place.
He also put this idea into vivid and memorable terms that sometimes scare little children.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.
It wasn’t literal, of course. Jesus meant you have to get rid of anything that blocks your awareness of the divine dwelling in you, moving through you, and expressing as you.
When we watch the news or hear about another shooting, it’s easy to go dark, to contract, withdraw, or give up.
We commiserate with each other about how bad things are, and let politicians exploit our fear and despair.
But that’s exactly the time to be most aware of our divine identity.
Jesus showed what’s possible for us. He reminded us of our unclaimed possibilities, not unattainable goals.
WHAT IS EVIL ANYWAY?
You might have heard spiritual people say there’s really no such thing as evil.
Not exactly. That’s like saying there is no darkness.
Of course there are evil acts in our world, just as there is darkness.
But there’s no force of evil inserting itself into our lives, no devil luring us to the dark side, any more than darkness creeps around, trying to put out the light.
Darkness is the absence of light. Something is blocking it.
Evil is the absence of good. A human being is frustrating his divine potential, turning off his light, thwarting his innate goodness.
Evil -– or any form of doing harm to others –- comes from our belief that we are separate from others and separate from God.
Even if the acts are perpetrated in God’s name.
I guarantee you, God is not telling anyone to kill his enemies. If Jesus was a spokesman for divine consciousness, then we are enjoined to love our enemies.
And of course, the people you love are not enemies.
The Dalai Lama is an expert on this. The Chinese overran his country of Tibet, forced him into exile in 1959, and destroyed most of the Tibetan monasteries. Thousands of Tibetans were killed.
Even so, the Dalai Lama says:
Our most valuable teachers are our enemies. Not only is this a fundamental Buddhist teaching, it is a demonstrated fact of life. … Only our enemies can provide us the challenge we need to develop tolerance, patience, and compassion.
Through a systematic practice, we can develop a tolerance so powerful, that when an enemy strikes, we feel actual appreciation for his action, for the opportunity for growth he has provided. We feel at ease, free from anger and hate, and clearly see the compulsions triggering his behavior. We can feel genuine compassion for the sad fate he brings upon himself as a result of his harmful conduct.
Of course this does not mean you should continue to live with someone who abuses you, any more than you would stumble around in the dark without turning on a light.
Martin Luther King and Gandhi were nonviolent, but they didn’t let the world walk over them. They had clear boundaries; they knew what they wanted. They could acknowledge the divine in all people without accepting all behavior.
HOW DO YOU KNOW?
So if we’re practicing love and forgiveness, where do we draw the line? What’s acceptable and what isn’t?
I believe our greatest challenge is to integrate our divine essence into our human experience. That’s what we came here to learn. It has to be the goal of everything we do.
And ultimately, it’s an individual choice. What feels like resistance to you, and what feels like love?
Are you fighting against something or being for something?
How are you expressing your own divinity? Not as a doormat, but with stubborn compassion, even as you face an enemy.
Granted, I don’t know how we could apply this at a global level. When has a society ever forgiven an enemy or decided not to fight back? What would happen to a leader who suggested we meet violence with love?
But you can practice it in your own life. You can look at your most frustrating relative and affirm his or her divine essence. You can watch the news, knowing one power and presence is in all things, establishing order and joy.
Eventually, you might even see it.
This is what Jesus tried to tell us. Don’t let anything get in the way of your connection with the divine.
Keep asking, What would love do now?