I had a really interesting experience the other day. A humbling one that might be worth sharing.
I was approached on the street by a nice-looking man that wanted to “share about Jesus, and what he’s done” for himself. Then, in rapid-fire nervous-speak he added, “Do you read the Bible?
Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? Are you a Christian?”
My response was immediate and brutal.
“No, I don’t study the Bible and I am not Christian. Instead, I follow Jesus.” Then I turned and began to continue walking. Never mind that that this is not how Jesus would have acted toward someone sincerely seeking. Like, at all.
He looked confused. “How can you have a personal relationship with Jesus without studying the Bible? Can you tell me how?”
Looking over my shoulder, I said impatiently, “No, I can’t tell you.” But then I did. Continuing to walk, I said, “Read the Gospels, forget the bookends of his life and do what he did.”
Here’s what’s interesting, aside from my very uncharacteristic dismissal of another human that wanted connection. About my response, I was deeply speaking my truth. I spent the majority of my life as a standard Christian until leaving the religion in 2008 at 43 years old. I read the New Testament when I was 12, believed in the divinity of Jesus, and taught it for decades to both youth and adults. While I continue to love Jesus, I don’t care to focus on either Christmas or Easter. I don’t comprehend them, nor do I think I need to. I have enough on my plate trying to embody the traits Jesus did (obviously, from my curt interaction). Still, attempting to do so has taught me more about him than anything I’ve learned from a book, including the Bible.
Along these lines, I believe there is far, far too much talk of following Jesus from the Christian world. It seems to come at the expense of doing the work of following him, daily. If he were better emulated by those who “confess his name,” there would be far more love in the world, greater empathy, increasing compassion, and ethical stewardship of our shared planet. War would decrease exponentially.
Instead, I find that the majority of Christians have devolved into wanting to destroy what they disagree with. The “Onward, Christian Soldiers” mentality has fatally infected the religion. Meanwhile, because they’re “right,” large-scale introspection gets passed by, so systemic moral and ethical issues are tragically perpetuated. Judgement and sincere hatred increase. This is exactly what is going on in Christianity today.
These are not the fruits of a spiritually viable group. They’re the fruits of a self-righteous mob that feels they have an “ace-in-the-hole.” In this case, it’s a “god-in-the-sky;” Jesus re-emerging to destroy the wicked and present to the Christians a world they didn’t earn - one of peace when peace wasn’t sought, of health when wellness was fought, a paradise of earth when pollution was passed-over in the name of greed and god.
All this said, it doesn’t excuse my response.
It’s one thing to speak one’s truth directly. This, I did. But the energy behind it was not only too intense for the situation, it was indicative of my own prejudice. Prejudice and love are not in the same energetic category. Not by a long shot.
One thing I’ve learned as a student and sometimes teacher of energy practices is that when the response is out of proportion for the situation, an unresolved issue – sometimes called a wound – is “wanting’ to be seen. Simply put, a man who is cut off in traffic and immediately goes into a rage had something else going on. Yes, it may just have been a bad day, but it’s likely something deeper than that. Either way, the overreaction is a doorway, a flag that signals an emotional cache that needs to be explored.
My responsibility, as one who proclaims to “follow Jesus” (and that’s saying a lot), is to look within at what was really going on when the Christian man approached me. I can think of any number of things that might have triggered my less-than-compassionate response. A recent banter with my true-believing mom that felt judgmental. A book I’ve been reading that includes the persecution of Native Americans, by Christianity. Internal fear for the consequences of the “righteous” propaganda I see. Frustration with talk about the “right to life,” when the Nature upon which we all depend upon for our own lives seems to have none afforded them by the same group of Bible thumpers.
All these things had been in my life. Emotions had been building, and I had not taken the time to feel and process them. This essay is one way I’m doing that.
Still, I owe it to this earnest man to continue to ask questions of myself, including a reconsideration of my proclamation that “I follow Jesus.” It would be more accurate to say, “I seek to follow him.”
To make the process complete, if not to help him heal from my unconscious energetic attack, I hope to see this man again. If I do, I will hear him and share with him my own insights. Maybe we can come to a unified place, and see one another as the brothers we are. Maybe we can both be uplifted by our interaction.
I think this is what Jesus would want.
(ARTIST: GREG OLSEN)