Friday, June 09, 2006

Spiritual Freedom and Scriptures

You wrote,
"How do you interpret the following scriptures:

Matthew 5:17-20
"'Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till it be fulfilled. Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven...'"

Jesus was getting in some severe trouble with the "powers that be," during his day. Ultimately, his "apostasy" (an antique word for "heresy") was going to get him murdered. Some of the religious leaders of the Jewish establishment would support this atrocity. So, naturally, he wanted to make as much peace as possible with these angry and powerful men. Jesus was a man of peace, profoundly, and was disturbed by the fact that they so hated him. He went as far as he possibly could to embrace everything that was good within the Jewish system and organization.

These words reveal that there was indeed good in that arrangement. These words might have been put in Jesus' mouth after his death by a "Judaizer"-- a Christian who wanted to dominate Christianity by the abandoned Jewish values. These people wanted all Christians to obey all Jewish laws. They were soundly defeated by Paul during the first century.

There were many fine and beautiful laws within the Jewish tradition. It was a good and loving idea not to steal from, envy, or murder others, or to covet their goods and wives. The famous Ten Commandments were this kind of positive, constructive, Love-manifesting law. But not all of the ten thousand traditional laws of Judaism were this practical or loving.

Even if Jesus did say these words, he was not endorsing the entire faith of Judaism. We can admit that certain cults, for example, have some good teachings-- even teachings that are spiritual, even some which are worthy of being repeated. Every religion, and every cult, contains some good and some truth. Otherwise, they would never be able to convert anyone. And conversion is their business.

Jesus was admitting only this. In retrospect, this might look like a feeble, even futile, attempt to "make peace" with the authorities. And clearly, it did not work. For their bigotry and hatred against Jesus could not possibly have been more fierce and ferocious than it was. After hounding and hassling him for years, they finally murdered him.

This was because he rejected much abouth the unjust, foolish, and regressive god-image worshipped by the Jews. He turned his back upon, and fully rejected, the murderous god of their history. The "Love" of Yahweh was simply too conditional, and to parsimonious, to fill the appropriate human need for Love. How, indeed, could the Prince of Peace ever accept such a nightmarish god?

Jesus came to start a new faith. It was, unlike the popular Judaism of his time, a mystical revelation. He did not come simply to destroy Judaism. That would have been a negative, and perhaps harmful, mission. Although Christianity did later convert many Jews, the high purpose of Jesus was to help people, to improve life, and to clear God's name of the horrors with which the Jews had associated Him.

So, although Christianity did threaten Judaism, and Judaism fiercely resisted and persecuted it, Jesus did not see his mission as the destruction, but the fulfillment, of Judaism. He was a smart guy, and realized that its "fulfillment" would destroy traditional Judaism, just as much as if he had "come to destroy" it. Jesus knew that full reconciliation between Judaism and his Way was impossible. The
differences between the two were simply too many, and far too important. But still, for what it was worth, he offered the olive branch of peace to the Jews, saying, in effect, "Let's not get started on the wrong foot. Why can't we be friends-- who agree to disagree?" Or, he might have been saying something like, "You don't have to be disagreeable to disagree."

Still, we are going much too far-- stretching his words all out of shape-- if we interpret this statement as an unquestioning endorsement of everything within the Jewish system.

As noted, it is possible that Jesus did not even say these words; and if he did, it is possible that a later scribe emended or even changed them. How can we tell? To discern this kind of matter, we must know the heart and mind of the Christ, for Jesus was a perfect reflection and embodiment
of the Christ.

If Jesus were quoted as saying, "Kill people when it is convenient," most people know the Spirit of Christ enough that they would immediately reject this statement as an inaccurate quotation. So, the same principle applies in more subtle matters: The Spirit of Christ would never speak against the truth (reality).

So, the final authority on whether to accept a text is not historical, textual, or academic. It is spiritual. It involves the Absolute (Spirit, God, or Christ). If a statement does not feel right, if it does not feel like pure Love, it is not genuine.

People of Love, we of the Spirit, are not dominated unthinkingly by any rule-book. We are absolutely free to accept or reject any teaching, whether it was claimed to have been uttered by Jesus or another great teacher or not. In other words, we are not like the fundies; we use reason, a God-given gift, to create discernment and discrimination.

Here is a spiritual analogy: Recently, a work has been completed, finishing a rendition (version) of The Celestial Song of God. This is a mystical classic from India.

In its beginning, the Lord is said to teach that war does not matter, that one might engage in war, for no one really dies in war. To the follower of the Spirit, this must be rejected-- as not a true teaching of Love. It must be dismissed as what it truly is-- a cultural artifact.

Some writer, during the long history of the text, was trying to justify the horrors of war. Perhaps he or she was simply trying to bring comfort to people raped and ravaged by the brutality of war. But the scribe, even with good intent and motive, dishonestly quoted the Lord to this effect. This was a lie. This was blatant, unreliable falsehood. And any spiritual person, upon reading the text, would recognize this immediately, and would reject the teaching with no hesitation, despite its claim to have been the "word" of the Lord.

We must use the very same combination of reason and compassion when looking at the words ascribed to Jesus. All scholars of the Bible now recognize that there were very many additions, deletions, and other alterations of the ancient texts during their very long history. This was and is inevitable in so long a history, and with such a crucial doc as the Bible.

The Spirit generates Love within us. This creates, and amplifies, our understanding. We dare not abandon Love for intellect, trading wisdom for history, exchanging deep compassion for words written on paper. That would be the true betrayal of our Lord of Love.

Truly spiritual people are so very independent of history that we do not even care about historical trivialities-- such as, was Jesus married? If he was, great! If he was not, great! None of this stuff has even a nano-effect on spirituality-- although it does play havoc with religion. Spiritual people must forever remain completely independent of history. Our spirituality is here and now. In the same way, by the same principle, we must also remain independent of domination by books. The Source of our spirituality is not any book or collection of books. It is the living and active Spirit within our hearts.

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