those of us who profess to be christians spend so much time trying to understand our religion. over the centuries we have debated, fought wars over, and struggled with what a genuine christian religion is or ought to be. we've fractured into countless expressions of christianity, in the process alienating ourselves from one another and the adherents of other religions and the non-religious. i'm not sure any of our attempts have moved us any closer to what jesus was teaching over two thousand years ago.
i wish i had a definitive, complete, and true answer to the questions of who jesus was and what he intended the practices of his followers to be. i believe i know some of the things he didn't intend for christians to do or become. i am certain that he didn't intend for us to live in separate compounds from those who were different from us or to force them to live in their own separate compounds. i am certain that he didn't intend for us to live in luxury while those around us were in desperate circumstances, in need of food or shelter. i am certain he didn't intend for us to solve our differences by making war against one another. i am certain that he didn't intend for us to enrich ourselves by cheating and taking from others. i am certain that he didn't intend for us to follow a religion of rules that teaches that everyone who doesn't follow our rules is bound for an eternity of torment. i am certain that he didn't intend for us to preach that our narrow system of beliefs is the only correct system of beliefs while all other systems are wrong and those who fail to adopt our system are doomed.
maybe what we need to do is follow the idea of jesus, rather than the physical person who lived so long ago. maybe jesus is the concept that true religion is to replace hate with love. maybe we should stop trying to convert everyone else to our own version of christianity and simply do good in the world. maybe we ought to do whatever we can to clothe, feed, and shelter those who need care. maybe we ought to stop taking from the earth without thought of the damage we are doing to ourselves and future generations. maybe we should make health care available to all. maybe we ought to stop seeing "others" and accept that we are all in this together. maybe we ought to stop arguing about religion and start helping one another. maybe we ought to be content with what we have rather than constantly striving for more that we don't need. maybe we are all brothers and sisters, parents and children. maybe we ought to throw away the rule book about which we've spent eons debating and fighting and just care for each other.
maybe this is what great teachers throughout history have been trying to get us to choose. love over hate. generosity over grasping. peace over war. kinship over enmity. embracing over pulling apart. shalom.