[From a fellow Blogger who was kind enough to offer their thoughts]
First of all, I would like to thank David for giving me a few paragraphs to perhaps color outside the lines of what many might understand to be Christianity.
As a post-evangelical Christian who has wrestled with the Christian theology for many years, I’ve grown to a new understanding of who Jesus is to me. I’m not alone in this particular vein of interpretation as there are many authors out there that have inspired me and helped me in my own spiritual journey. Growing up, the churches I attended focused a lot on how terrible things are here on earth and what a great day it will be to leave this place behind and be in God’s presence. Where much of evangelical Christianity has landed today is squarely in an “us vs. them” paradigm which is fading… very slowly, but fading still. However, the stories and accounts that we have of Jesus indicate that He was present, purposeful and loving in every situation. There was no “us vs. them” mentality with Jesus. He was happy to eat with people who had moral issues (like we all do), and converse and drink with those of a different creed, all the while offering them something as simple as going the way of love and kindness.
It’s also true that in the evangelical dialogue there is much talk of heaven and hell in the afterlife. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) Jesus gives a beautiful message about how to live here on earth. These teachings are not to “get His listeners into heaven”. In the last few verses of Chapter 7 Jesus explains that these teachings will help one’s life to have a solid foundation in the midst of the storms and winds that inevitably roll through.
As for a savior or a sacrifice for sin. I personally believe that the idea of a needed sacrifice is more of an antiquated idea that the ancients believed help bring them good yield on their crops and hunts and that eventually extended into moral behaviors. As far as Christianity is concerned, I think Tony Jones says it well in his book A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin; “So human beings are not absolved of sin because of Christ’s death on the cross. Absolution is achieved only by confession and repentance. Instead Christ’s death serves as an example that beckons us to lives of sacrificial love.”
There would also be many, myself included, that believe that bringing the Kingdom of God to earth (as was Jesus’ prayer) is participating with all people, creatures and nature like the beginning and the end of the Bible describes; with thankfulness, unity, peace and love. Is all of life flowery and with no suffering? Obviously not. It was never said that it would be. But I believe that bringing things like unity and kindness and grace into our actions and attitudes is not only right action for the sake of our own hearts and peace of mind, but also for the furthering of a restoration of life and compassion in a world that thrives on love and dies from apathy.
To be on any path that further orientates us with kindness and love is indeed noble and right. We all feel that. And we all feel that it takes work. I believe that Jesus was very familiar with this struggle and in the midst of that struggle found the strength to connect, to bridge gaps, to love, to heal and to teach. These are all things we can, and in a lot of cases, already do.
Am I Christian so that I can get to the Biblical heaven? No. I am a Christian because the things Jesus taught and the way He lived inspires me to live with passion, to breathe in the beauty of this world, to see the Divine in every living being and to know that my actions and attitudes will resonate in others well after I’m gone. We all feel that the few breaths we draw on this planet are not frivolous. With purpose comes resolve. With resolve comes intentionality. With true intentionality comes mindfulness and with mindfulness comes peace. And wasn’t that the first Christmas wish?