When people say Jesus, there is an abundance of views as to who he was. Some say he was just a man, some say a prophet, some say a messiah, some say the son of God, some say God the Son, some say he is an idea, and there are many people who no idea who he is. I grew up a Christian and up until my late 20s, I still believed in the deity of Jesus, the infallibility of the Bible, and the various doctrines of the church. However, I became somewhat skeptical in my early 30s and started to reject things that, to me, just didn’t make sense. To me, the entire concept of “original sin” does not present our Creator as a loving and merciful God at all. Then to further complicate it with the concept that God himself would have to become man and die to reconcile everyone of this curse at birth, just pushed me over the edge. I have a hard time believing that one person can suffer in my place. It all seems like a cop-out. When you read about the personage of the man named Jesus and strip away the dogmas and the fabulous tales of miracles you will actually find something far different then what your pastor (who is paid to preach) will tell you.
Thomas Jefferson said it best when he said, “To the corruptions of Christianity I am, indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished any one to be; sincerely attached to his doctrines, in preference to all others.” I share Jefferson’s beliefs that the gospels had been corrupted with words that Jesus never uttered and miracles that never really happened. I also believe that Jesus really existed and that his original teachings can be found in the gospels if you look closely. The teachings of Jesus were pure and true. He taught of universal love, morality, and charity. He surrounded himself with hookers, tax collectors, and other social undesirables. He tried to get people to find their faults, confront them, overcome them, and try to be better people. He spoke of love for your enemies and while this is tough to grasp it is the earliest occurrence of the idea to “kill them with kindness”.
Jesus taught that it was a person’s actions, both external and internal, that mattered. He rejected the notion that a person would be unclean if they ate certain foods and instead said that it was what came out of someone’s mouth that made them unclean. Words of anger, hate, and deceit were in Jesus’s view worse than eating pork. The Parables of Jesus were geared for both the intelligent and the ignorant in that there was an obvious message and a subliminal one that invoked deep personal reflection. Of all of the teachings of Jesus there is nothing more significant than the Sermon on the Mount. This is found in Matthew Chapters 5-7 and there is no greater discourse on life and how to live it then what is written there. How wonderful and amazing would the world be if we all read those 3 chapters every day and tried to live by them?
Jesus taught of the Kingdom of Heaven he did not teach of salvation by grace, that was an invention of Paul. Jesus gave clear instructions about feeding the poor, helping the destitute, aiding widows and orphans, and made it clear that it required action to enter the kingdom of heaven – not faith. “Go and do likewise” was the charge given at the conclusion of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. For me to think that a man who gives to the poor and needy all that he has, is doomed to go to hell because he is not a Christian defies all Reason and is un-Christian. To make the matter worse and say that a man who commits mass murder only needs to accept Jesus into his heart and go to heaven – over the other guy who gave with all is heart – is just plain detestable and not inline with the fairness and benevolence of our Creator.
Jesus was a man. A man of profound moral teachings and the author of a doctrine of morals that is beyond comparison. His teachings of love and morality over dogma and despotism eventually cost him his life. If all mankind were to adhere to what he taught and the doctrines he so eloquently inculcated, the world would be a more beautiful place. Over the course of the next few blog postings I am going to peel back the dogma and fantasy and cover each parable and then cover the Sermon on the Mount. It is within the teachings of this man, Jesus of Nazareth, that we can find some of the most sublime truths. He will be our guide on this next leg of the quest.