Sunday, April 10, 2005

Living the Christian Life

A friend asked me to write something about what living the Christian life means. The request came just a couple days before the funeral of John Paul II, a time when the media eulogized the Pope and felt compelled to limit critical commentary on his legacy. My thoughts are not about institutional Christianity and the legacy of pontiffs. Instead, they are a personal estimation of what the historic Jesus (as opposed to the Christ of Christianity) would recommend to those who follow The Way.
  • keep an open table (share food and fellowship with anyone who wishes to do so)

  • make forgiveness reciprocal (forgive freely, the only provision being that the forgiven person also forgive freely)

  • heal the sick (do all we can to ease pain and suffering)

  • condemn the public practice of piety (religious posturing is hypocritical)

  • deal directly with the divine (we have  an "unbrokered" relationship with God; consequently, the priesthood and clergy is unnecessary and sometimes contrary to a personal, living relationship with the Father of all)

  • refuse to acknowledge privileges and entitlements in God's kingdom (we are fundamentally equal before God)

  • consider that all reward and punishment is intrinsic (doing good is its own reward; doing evil is its own punishment; there is no need for additional reward and punishment)

  • live in the resurrection by glimpsing the divine in everyday life (the resurrection is not about apostolic authority, but about each of us following Jesus and personally glimpsing the same kingdom of God he saw in the ordinary things of life, such as eating, drinking, walking, talking and engaging with nature)

  • tell stories that subvert authority (parables and aphorisms dignify the one who hears because the listener has to be fully engaged in interpretation and application; in addition, the stories we tell are meant to challenge tradition and what is accepted as normative)

  • work to achieve God’s realm here on earth (what we believe is not as important as what we do; what we do should, in some way, bring heaven down-to-earth)

That’s ten things. It’s a mixture of summaries from people I respect and thoughts of my own. I’ve avoided the cliché and the injunctions that all religions espouse.

To me, the genius of the historic Jesus is that his life and mission are beyond institutions. They shatter any attempt to capture once-and-for-all how humanity must visualize and communicate with the divine. If living a Christian life is about following Jesus, then it must be a way of living beyond borders, boundaries and commandments as was the case in his life. Institutions may come and go; in fact, they must come and go. The truth of the kingdom is always glimpsed anew each and every day; it is always evolving and growing.