Conversations with God?
Awhile ago, I watched a movie about the author of "Conversations with God". The author and main character, Neal Donald Walsh, claims to have heard from God over an extended period of time. In these conversations, God showed him that most religious concerns are irrelevant. I am with him on this.
God makes these main points:
Given the appropriate context and meaning, I'm with him on all these as well. In the grand scheme of things, there is nothing that really needs to be done. But, given this, what does he suggest as the primary principle of life?
As I understand him, it's simply to do "whatever works". There is no right way to accomplish something; we simply need to make the choices that will lead to our desired result the most quickly.
I actually think that this is a somewhat reasonable basis for morality, if that's what we're looking for. But it doesn't really help us much. It doesn't tell us anything we don't know. It doesn't help us decide whether to kill a particular individual or not - since we can't know the future, we can only guess as to whether killing that person will lead us to the results we want.
As a basis for living, then, this is a workable method, but not a brilliant one.
In contrast, Jesus offers us something else. Jesus doesn't ask us to guess at the future. Jesus doesn't ask us to make leaps of logic in order to determine our actions now. Instead, Jesus is incisively and brilliantly simple. Whatever you want - be that.
If you want peace, be peaceful. If you want love, be loving. According to Jesus, we cannot separate our ends from our means. We cannot pursue peace through violence, we cannot achieve love through hatred. "Whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword" - whatever means we choose will always be present in the ends.
And so, for Jesus, we must live from a deeply burning integrity, regardless of the result.
Jesus, in my understanding, asks us to look deeply into each moment and decision, and determine what is intrinsically desirable there. Not, "What can we stomach now, to get what we want later?" But rather, "What decision at this moment most fully and authentically comes from me?" Or, "What do I value most deeply?"
In his provocative way, Jesus asks us to ignore "whatever works", and to turn our focus instead on whatever is beautiful.