Ends and Means

Religion is to be used as a stepping stone to God, but it must never be used as a tower to hold one aloft from others. We are all cells in the body of humanity. When anyone attempts to isolate another, they only isolate themselves more.
                          – Peace Pilgrim

I think for a long time we may have gotten it wrong.
At least the way we have tended to talk about it.
We (Christians) made it all about Jesus.
About believing in Jesus.
About being saved by Jesus.
Jesus was (and for many still is) the most important thing.
Better than all the rest.
Growing up John 3:16 was our touchstone verse and one of the first verses I was encouraged to memorize:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Christianity was not only the best, it was the only way. All other faith traditions paled in comparison and those who practiced those traditions were lost. At least that is how it was taught to me.

That understanding of Jesus and faith doesn’t work for me any more. I have too many friends and neighbors and colleagues who are Jewish or Muslim or Sikh or Nones. All of them are good people working as I am to live with integrity and compassion, to care for those in need and to make our communities and country and world better and safer and stronger. Their values mirror my values. Their hopes mirror my hopes. I can’t believe they are completely wrong or forever lost.

What I have come to believe is what we got wrong is we confused ends with means. For a whole host of reasons we made Jesus the end, when all along Jesus was and is the means to the end. A way we get to where we are supposed to be.
The end is something else.
Something more.
Something we are to be and do.

Besides getting Jesus in the right place, the challenge for us as Christians is to articulate what the end really is. What the purpose is for following Jesus and/or believing in Jesus. The idea/the language I have been playing with is this. I think the purpose of religion and the dream of God and the teaching and witness of Jesus is for us, on a personal level, to become and to be compassionate human beings and, on a community level, to build what Jesus means when he talks about the Kingdom of God. If I am right or even on the right track then maybe we can begin to talk about Jesus and our faith in a new and refreshing ways which invite others into the conversation and to work with others as equal and valued partners in building that beloved community. What do you think?

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