By Kim Michaels
There is a tendency among Christians to see Jesus as being very remote, very far away. Some see him as a historical figure, and since mainstream Christianity says he stopped talking to us 2,000 years ago, it seems as if Jesus has no specific message for our time. Thus, many Christians seem to feel we have to interpret the scriptures that were given back then without any direct input from Jesus. Jesus was very involved with human affairs back then, but today we are on our own.
Other Christians seem content with the view that Jesus is far away, for it allows them to interpret his teachings as they see fit. If you look at the amazing variety of Christian churches, you will see that some churches focus on specific aspects of Jesus’ message and have inflated the importance of one aspect to the point where it dominates their view of Jesus. For example, some churches have created an image of Jesus as a hellfire and brimstone preacher, whereas others portray him as a soft-spoken teacher who loved and included everybody. It is easy to find other interpretations that are mutually exclusive.
One can also look at the ongoing battle between mainstream Christians and atheists or scientific materialists, a battle that has been renewed in recent years by a string of books that attack Christianity and all religion based on a materialistic interpretation of science. What drives this battle is that both sides are using the reasoning mind to argue their case. Yet this battle has been going on for centuries and there is no end in sight. People on each side are using the rational mind to convince themselves that they are right and their opponents are wrong.
What we see is the reality that people can argue for just about any interpretation of Jesus in a way that seems convincing—to them. Since some of the views are mutually exclusive, one might reason that they cannot all be right, but how can we determine which are true to Jesus’ original message and which are not? How can we avoid becoming stuck in the intellectual argumentation that has been going on for centuries without providing any clear consensus? Once again, we face a choice:
- Are you satisfied with the arguments presented by a particular church? Are you content with basing your view of Jesus on particular interpretations of scripture or on intellectual arguments and reasoning?
- Are you ready to look for a better way, a new approach to determining the inner meaning of Jesus’ teachings?
Is there such a better way? Well, because Jesus is so often seen as being remote, it is easy to forget that he was a very wise teacher. He no doubt saw many of the same conditions at his time that we see today, namely different religious groups arguing based on the same scripture without finding any middle ground. Thus, it would not have been difficult for Jesus to foresee that the movement he started could indeed become split into many competing factions, arguing endlessly over this or that point in scripture. In the scriptures we find examples of how Jesus’ own disciples were arguing amongst themselves even while Jesus was still with them (Mark 9:34). Was it hard to predict that this could potentially become much worse one Jesus left?
Is it possible that Jesus foresaw what has happened to Christianity today? Is it possible that he gave us a tool for avoiding confusion by coming to a deeper understanding of his hidden message? If you have grown up in a mainstream Christian church, you might never have heard about such a unifying tool, for the simple reason that you were presented with your church’s doctrines as being infallible. You might have experienced that when you had questions that could not be explained by the official doctrines, you were discouraged from asking them in church. Yet let us take a look at a couple of Jesus’ own statements:
16. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
17. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14)
25. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you.
26. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14)
These are momentous statements that have the potential to take us beyond confusion and conflict. What Jesus is actually promising us here is a tool for knowing the fullness of his teachings, even the teachings that he had to hide from the public at the time. Why is this so significant?
We have seen that many Christians feel Jesus is very remote and that he hasn’t spoken to us for 2,000 years. Yet in these statements Jesus is promising to talk to us through the Comforter, who shall “abide with us forever.” Thus, we must reason that this Comforter is available to us today—if we will only make use of it. Denying this Comforter is denying that Jesus made the promise or that he has the power to fulfill it.
Furthermore, this Comforter can take us far beyond intellectual reasoning and literal interpretations of scripture. It can “teach us all things” and help us remember and understand everything Jesus wants to tell us. This would presumably apply to the inner teachings that he gave only to his close disciples, meaning that we have the potential to become direct disciples of Jesus, even today.
We now see that if we are willing to make use of this gift, there is no reason for us to feel that we have been deserted by Jesus, that Jesus is a remote being or that Jesus has nothing to say to us in today’s age. The Comforter can – according to Jesus’ own statement – tell us everything we need to know about how to understand and apply Jesus’ inner teachings in this modern age.
We also see that this has the potential to help us overcome all conflict among Christians from various churches. There might still be different churches that focus on different aspects of Jesus’ vast message, yet if they all have the Comforter, there would presumably be mutual understanding and respect. There would be the recognition that Jesus’ true message is universal, meaning that it can be applied in different ways but that it is still the same message, thus promoting a deeper sense of unity among all people who see themselves as followers of Christ.
Is there any reason to put limitations on how far this Comforter can take us in terms of understanding Jesus’ message? Not according to Jesus, who said the Comforter can teach us “all things.” So we now face another choice:
- Will you reject the Comforter and cling to a traditional interpretation of the scriptures, refusing to go beyond the “safe” boundaries defined by a particular church?
- Will you be willing to take part of an exploration of what exactly this Comforter is and how we can make use of it to enrich our lives in the modern world?
In the rest of this book, we will explore what the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, can tell us about the hidden messages of Christ and how they apply to our situation as spiritual people in the modern world.
Copyright © 2009 Kim Michaels