At church last Sunday, the pastor was saying that Jesus did not water down his message to make people comfortable. Jesus said that either you are with him, or you’re against him. There is no “I suppose so” or middle ground.
I’ve found myself grumbling against the pastor’s message the past few
weeks, on the walk home from church. I find this prayer time to be
more worthwhile when I can find some common ground with the message, or
something with which I agree. Is that watering down the message, or
sitting on the fence? Well, I’m in the part of the week when I don’t
particularly care, to tell you the truth!
Was Jesus so absolutist? I can agree with the pastor in the sense
that I believe that Jesus had the integrity to be himself: Jesus did not
water down who he was and what he stood for. At the same time, I think
that Jesus realizes that we are imperfect. In Matthew 19:11-12, for
instance, Jesus realized that not everyone could be a eunuch for the
Kingdom of Heaven. And Jesus’ disciples had their flaws. In my
opinion, Jesus does not disassociate himself from people just because
they cannot live up to perfection. I doubt that the pastor believes
that: he talks about how God spared his life, even when he was not
walking the straight and narrow.
I decided to look up the biblical passages in which Jesus says that
those who are not for him are against him, to get the context of those
passages. The passages are Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23. The contexts
concern Jesus’ defeat of demonic forces through his exorcisms. I read
the passages in those contexts and I wonder: who wouldn’t want to be for
that? Who wouldn’t want to be on the side of good, of liberation?
My reservation about such passages concerns my reluctance to want to
toe the evangelical line. For example, I am enjoying reading the
Bhagavad Gita right now. Would God not want me to do that? I do not
want to return to a dry Christian fundamentalism, in which I have to
limit myself to a certain perspective. I do remember, however, that
there are many Christians, including conservative Christians, who are
educated about other religions.
During my prayer on the way home, I was thinking about the
unfulfillment that I felt when I was a Christian fundamentalist. I
thought about my reading in the Bhagavad Gita, or, perhaps more
accurately, Swami Prabhupada’s comments on it. According to my reading
of that, it is possible to go through the rituals of religion and to
miss the point. One can fast and deprive oneself and give away one’s
material possessions, while still being attached to the material, and
alienated from consciousness of the divine. That reminds me of my
fundamentalist days—-doing the right thing, yet somehow feeling
alienated, or as if I was amiss in some way. I am not sure what I would
have done differently: perhaps not worry about it so much.