I was in a discussion with a very liberal Pentecostal man this week. We were discussing the essential message of faith. We both knew something of the background of the other person and we hold each other in deep respect.
I would like to share with you what I said was the central message of the Christian Gospel for me.
As I see it the most important moment in the gospel comes in Luke chapter 23. There is Jesus on the cross with the two thieves either side. One is there mocking Jesus and the other accepts the innocence of Jesus and defends it. He never says he believes in Jesus but he accepts his innocence. Notice that in this passage Jesus does not condemn the other thief he just blesses the one who has lightened his burden.
I see this to be the perfect portrayal of the divine. I tend to believe that at each moment we stand at that point and we have a choice we can choose to defend the innocent or not too. We can choose to be a blessing or to be more of a problem. Now all of us being human, sometimes we choose one way and sometimes we choose another way. The great mystery of the divine for me is that no matter which way we choose to walk, the divine is there again, open armed, asking us to choose again. It never condemns. Each choice brings its own reward or cost which we have to pay and the divine knows this. But of its self the divine never condemns, it leaves that to us. Something we humans have become all too proficient in. It just stands there open armed asking us choose and again we are free to lighten the burden or to add to it.
How do we know if we have chosen the right path? This we see in actions. Mathew in Chapter 25 tells us that the kingdom of heaven is for those who feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked and visit those in prison etc. In this passage Jesus does not talk about faith or believing in him he talks about the actions of those on the path to the divine. It is not going to church or having bumper stickers proclaiming faith that saves you. It is your actions pure and simple. For me this is the essential Christian and for that matter religious message. It is not important how you describe your idea of the divine because that is all it is an idea. It does not really matter in what form you choose to give worship because again that is a human response to a meeting with the divine. What really matters is what you do after that meeting. Will you go out and lighten someone’s burden or do you choose to add to it. Was Ghandi a man of the divine.....yes. Is the Dali Lama a man of the divine .......yes. Did they believe in Jesus .......no. But they do walk the path the divine sets out. We all have a grasp on the truth.....well as much as we can see from our perspective. Our mistake comes when we begin to think we have the only truth. It our way or no way!!!
Here is something which struck me after..... if we map out our life and our choices in a very simple way then what image appears