It is quite popular for those who consider themselves religious to speak of loving their fellowman. But how many understand what love really is? Where or to whom do we look for the perfect example of love? Yes, of course, Jesus. But I submit that the religions are largely missing the point of the example of Jesus. They focus on the excruciating death of Jesus while declaring that he did it willingly to pay God’s price for sin, thereby portraying God’s love for mankind. In my opinion, this is not only contradictory but completely misses the point. There was something else about this event that captured the awe of mankind and marked it as the most profound, awe inspiring and significant event ever recorded or witnessed from the beginning of time. Something far beyond the shame, humiliation and suffering of dying a horrible public death. Something that no man or woman had before witnessed or even contemplated. Something so profound as to rock the human psyche to its core like nothing before. It was this something that made Jesus the focus of attention above any other who ever walked the face of the earth. It was this something that caused the Western world to divide time by his death.
Furthermore, it was not the teachings of Jesus that caused people to recognize his Divinity and greatness. Endless teachings had preceded him and crucifixions were commonplace at that time.
It was not the fact that Jesus died an excruciating death that caused the Roman Centurion who was witnessing it to exclaim, “surely this man was the son of God”. It was not the fact that Jesus was dying for the sins of mankind that caused one of the thieves dying the same way to cry out, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom”. It was not the dying of Jesus that caused a member of the Sanhedrin to publicly align himself with Jesus at the foot of the cross. It was not the death or teachings of Jesus that caused over three thousand people to accept him as Lord a month later.
The event that shook the world and stands out as the one most significant in the history of mankind was his statement,
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” 2,3
Never before had humanity witnessed such love. Never before had one sentence so impacted human emotions or evoked such reverence. The events that Jesus was witnessing as he was suffering on the cross included, the Roman soldiers gambling to see who won his belongings, some who had spit on him and jerked out his beard on the way to Golgotha, an angry crowd mocking and making fun of him, even the two thieves being crucified at the same time until after his statement when one repented. Even as the religious leaders were deriding him and others were forcing a crown of thorns into his scalp, Jesus was expressing love as it had never before been demonstrated, by saying, “Father forgive them”.
Why do I say the belief that Jesus died so that forgiveness is possible is a contradiction? Love and forgiveness are the same. One cannot exist without the other. Separation, judgment or condemnation is not love. The opposite of love is sin. Sin cannot exist in love anymore than darkness can exist in light. Sin is merely the lack of love. The only cure for sin is love. Jesus attached no conditions to his prayer from the cross. Theologians try to make it work by saying Jesus was simply expressing the willingness of God to forgive if we meet the conditions, while at the same time declaring that God's love is unconditional. It makes no sense and distorts love.
Accepting a belief, ritual, or whatever and considering that the cure is being misled. Being a follower of Jesus is something quite different than simply going to church and accepting a belief about what constitutes salvation. Being a follower of Jesus means loving your fellow man without condition. Believing that some ritual or belief is necessary for salvation means forgiveness or love is conditional and it is not.
Some will say that I accept only that which agrees with my belief while ignoring the rest but “the rest” is not consistent with the basic teaching of love. We must remember that the teachings of Jesus were interpreted by Jews heavily ingrained in Old Testament doctrine of an angry, emotional, judgmental God who was going to send a Messiah to save mankind. So what resulted was a conglomeration of contradictions and impure love.
I believe we will advance spiritually as we progress in love. I do not believe the world will ever become peaceful as long as its inhabitants are ignorant of love while trying to convert the others to their way of thinking. Think how different the world would be if people forgot about doctrines, conditions, etc. and simply loved one another. In my opinion such was the simple message of Jesus.
Written by Larry Langston. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org