The Church vs the Christ, Part 4

The Church vs The Christ, Part 4

No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. John 1:18

The words in today’s epigraph close what is known as the Prologue to the Gospel of John. The verse is often mistakenly read and understood by substituting “Jesus” in place of “Son.” This gives the common misunderstanding of Jesus of Nazareth as God’s only Son. Indeed, this is what many, if not most Christian churches teach. It makes the Son exclusive to Christianity, it implies that the Christian church is the only way to God, and it sets the Son, or the Christ, far apart from us normal folk. This interpretation is not only inaccurate but also misleading. The gospel of John refers much more to the universal and eternal Christ as manifested in Jesus of Nazareth than the other gospels, which focus more on stories of the individual life of Jesus of Nazareth. Both are important, but the focus on the Christ in John, as well as in Paul’s letters, once we develop eyes to see it, helps take our understanding to a deeper, more universal level, which is also more intimate and personal. The passage is not about the individual named Jesus of Nazareth, but about the Christ and the Son of Man, which refers to the fully developed human, which Jesus became. The Son does not refer to a single manifestation of God, but to all manifestations of God, including us. That is who is close to God’s heart and who makes God known. And that is the universal Christ, which is not a religion but a state of being we are invited to awaken to. It is already present in us and has been from the beginning.

Churchianity, largely a product of the past few centuries, takes passages of scripture that are intended to express universal and eternal concepts and attempts to apply them to individuals in a specific place and time. Doing so feeds the delusion that sin and salvation are personal issues that we are individually responsible for. This individualizing of the Christian faith causes us to feel inadequate, unworthy, and fraudulent because we cannot individually live up to the expectations that were intended to be realized as a community.

Because we consider ourselves individuals – separate from everyone and everything else – it is much easier to understand scripture as individual instructions than it is to understand it as universal concepts none of us can fully understand or embody alone. Jesus taught in parables so his teachings could be applied in many ways by many different people from many different cultures. In that sense his teachings are universal, particularly when compared to the Old Testament laws that were very specific to a particular time and culture. Some of the writings of Paul are also too specific to his time and culture to be applied literally to our world today. Certainly, they were not intended to be applied individually. Most of what remains relevant from either Testament of the Bible today are the stories, like the parables of Jesus. No one expects a story to be factual or literally “true.” Rather, the purpose of a story is to present something that is widely insightful and relatable across time and cultural divides. Jesus is a historical reality, but the Christ is the universally relevant story. Had Jesus not awoken to his Christ-nature, he likely would’ve been no more than an asterisk in Middle-Eastern, 1st Century history, if that.

We can tell that Paul’s letters were written about the eternal Christ, as opposed to Jesus, because he adds the title of Christ in his references. The gospel of John is the only gospel to record I am sayings of Jesus (“I am the way, the truth, and the life,”[1] “I am the bread of life,”[2] etc.). These sayings, more than others, directly tie Jesus to God because the name God gave for Godself to the Hebrew people was I am.[3] To use that name either made Jesus a blasphemer or indicated his alignment with the Christ, or Son of God. Statements like, “No one comes to the Father except through me”[4] do not mean one can only come to God through Jesus of Nazareth and by assumed extension, the Christian church. Rather, they mean we all come to God through the Christ – God’s manifestation on earth – regardless of our religion or lack thereof. Churchianity cannot take us there. Nor do we go there alone. Jesus of Nazareth awoke to his oneness with God through the Christ and encourages us to so awaken, too, as parts of the body of Christ – apart from the church if necessary.

This is the 49th in the series of Life Notes titled Churchianity vs Christianity. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at ghildenbrand@sunflower.com, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning and browse the archives of my Life Notes, Podcasts, music, books, and other musings.


[1] John 14:6

[2] John 6:48

[3] Exodus 3:13-14

[4] John 14:6

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