Jesus Remains the Same

by Stella

Believing Christians often conceive of Jesus as static. Jesus was born divine in a stable in Bethlehem and remained that way for the rest of his life. While I feel that the LDS doctrine goes a bit farther than most religions, I still find myself trapped into thinking of Jesus in a very one-dimensional way. I have a hard time believing that he never “sinned,” at least, by standards of my old definition of the word. Now, I tend reflect deeper what “sin” actually means for me, free from religious input. Did Jesus never hit his siblings? Did Jesus never argue with his father? Did Jesus skip school occasionally? Did Jesus swear? Did Jesus get a crush on a girl and have thoughts about her that he might need to confess to his Bishop? Did Jesus ever feel competitive? Did Jesus ever let his ego get in the way? And if he didn’t, well, then, how can he understand me when I do all of these things? And if he did, well, can he REALLY be sinless? Was Jesus able to repent?

A static Jesus tends to serve religion because you can’t REALLY equate him with true human experience (like all the little things mentioned above). He has to be unique—the one and only Son of God—that is what makes him special, isn’t it? But, in my mind, it creates a gap that seems impossible to cross.

Think about it, “for over two thousand years millions of people have worshipped Christ with out really being transformed. With the exception of a handful of saints, Christianity has not turned believers into the ‘light of the world’ even though Jesus clearly intended the Kingdom of God to descend to earth in his lifetime. Like Buddha and every other enlightened person, Jesus wanted his followers to become enlightened too.”

Jesus was the product of transformation, and he wanted others to be transformed also. Lately, I’ve been reading books on Jesus written by non-Christians. In the most recent one, Jesus, a Story of Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra (where the quotes come from), I have thought about Jesus in a way that I never have thought about him before. What if he wasn’t really born of a virgin birth, what if his birth and life were just like mine–only he started to understand deeply his own divinity—which is JUST like mine? What if he heard prophecies of a Messiah and decided to step up and fulfill those prophecies—not because he was any different or more divine than I am, but because he was willing to act. What if his life choices and teachings were simply a reflection of the power of enlightenment, conviction of who he is, and faith in his own ability? What if everything that Jesus taught and was, I can learn and be—not in heaven, but RIGHT NOW? What if he was just a man—a man who tapped into some higher part of himself that WE ALL HAVE? Somehow, these ideas seems to spur me to action more than the idea that he was part divinity, perfect, unchanging, and always clear about who and what he was. These thoughts make me drawn to his life path as something more conceivable for me to achieve right now. What if millions of people connected to these aspects of Jesus’s path on a deeper level (instead of the concentrating on all the miracles surrounding his calling)?

“What, then, is the path that Jesus laid out? Parts of it are already familiar. Jesus told his disciples to pray. He asked them to trust God. They were to rely on faith to accomplish miracles. Their attitude toward the world was to be one of peace and love. Millions of Christians still attempt to live by these precepts, yet something crucial must be missing, because we don’t witness a large-scale transformation of human nature among Christians. Like the rest of us, they seem just as tempted to be unloving, violent, selfish, and narrow-minded, the difference being that they are tempted to use their religion to justify their behavior. (In that, they aren’t alone—every organized religion creates an ethos that covers human flaws with self-righteous rhetoric).”

There must be more to the path that Jesus outlined. There must be more to his life mission as a man on this earth. There must be a greater world transformation that can happen. There must be some part of a static Jesus that just isn’t resonating with the Christian population as it was meant to. How can we view and follow Jesus in a way that will actually bring about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth? What do you think it is?

Stella

I’m an artist, writer, photographer, feminist, listener, lover, and a fighter. I believe that travel is fatal to prejudice, that skies are meant to be blue, and that the world is full of endless possibilities.

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25 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Stella, I think these ideas are compelling. I myself have always been attracted to the human Jesus, the Jesus who cries to God to take this cup from him. That’s a Jesus I can relate to. That’s a Jesus who speaks to me.

    I think there are passages in the scriptures that do hint that Jesus may not have been as static as we tend to think. There’s one passage – Mark 7: 24-30 – in which a gentile woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter. He tells her that he’s not going to take the children’s food and toss it to the dogs – effectively calling her gentile self a dog. She replies that even dogs get crumbs. And he relents and says that he will heal her daughter.

    This passage shows me that Jesus was a man who was progressing, who was learning, who was capable or relenting, of being taught, of changing his mind. I’m not necessarily denying his divinity, but I personally don’t think that divinity meant that he didn’t progress and learn as all people do.

    Your last question is a good one, but I have no answer for it at the moment. I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this, though.

  2. Sterling Fluharty says:

    Thanks for sharing this post. I have pondered many of these same things too. Here are a few of the questions I wonder about: Why do we expect that Christ has something in common with us? Wouldn’t it be just as fair for us to identify what we have in common with him? What are the implications of believing that the power to change is within us? Why do we sometimes find it so hard to believe that the power to change comes from tapping into the divine? What evidence do we have that love is less transformative than enlightenment? What would this world be like if most people were more interested in self-enlightment than in serving others? And is God’s kingdom something that can only be built with God’s assistance or are we able to build Zion when left to our own devices?

  3. Stella says:

    Caroline, I agree about the passages in the scriptures, and that’s one thing I’m giving kudos to the LDS religion for beginning to investigate. Here in Europe, where you are just Catholic whether you believe or not (honestly, I don’t find many non-denominational people over here) I see the “static” Jesus as being a big red flag.

    SF–Thank you so much for putting a voice to questions that I TOO have thought and continue to think. I especially have wondered about the path of self-enlightenment verses other paths that religion prize. But goodness, I was really looking for some answers from you, not more questions! 🙂

  4. EBrown says:

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
    Mohandas Gandhi

  5. michael says:

    This truly is an inspired/ing website. I very much respect and agree with the observations you make.

    Having lived a life dedicated to christian beliefs for more than 60 years, including 30 as catholic and 30 as morman, (lower cases c and m diliberate) I find main stream ideas about Christ, such as those you site, inaccessible and mostly uninspired as taught.

    Having been raised strict catholic, I feel Fairy Tale Jesus was the result of the Council of Nicea in the 3rd century A.D..Organized religion has been a (barly) living (too much killing) fairy tail since that time.

    I do feel the Book of Mormon, D&C, and The Lectures on Faith, strengthen my desire to live Christ-like attributes; attributes that provide stability and motivation as I continue my efforts toward personal fulfillment and balance in life.

    Although, I dare say, after 20+ years living in Utah, (and I love living in Utah-especially since i stopped going to church about 4 years ago) the restored Gospel as taught through the above mentioned scriptures, is very different than “lived” Mormon main stream culture. I joined the church in Hawaii, and know the Gospel/culture is perceived and lived differently outside–Utah=the mission field.

  6. Marianne says:

    Interesting article Stella…. it has me pondering certain aspects of what you wrote, and certain responses that have been made. I personally believe that we are here on this earth to gain knowledge, experience, and in doing so “question” so that we understand more thoroughly what we believe. Thought-provoking and belief reaffirming:) Thanks:)

  7. Sterling Fluharty says:

    You are welcome. Sorry to disappoint. I usually have more questions than answers. Still hoping for that follow-up post. It just might provoke an interesting response.

  8. Stella–Thanks for a thoughtful post. For some time I’ve thought it more important to be like Jesus than to be saved by Jesus.

    Sterling–You make a valid point that seeking for enlightenment can be a selfish goal which mvoes us away from serving others.

  9. Stella says:

    EBrown–yep, I KNOW I’m not the first to think of this, it really does just make you stop and look at these icons/heroes in a fresh light. At least, for me it has.

    Michael, thank you. I stopped going to church about two years ago. I lived in Utah as well and now I live in Europe. It’s different not to have the ideas floating around and the large population of Latter Day Saints, but at the same time, it’s given me room to breathe and express ideas that sound pretty reasonable to me. Thanks for commenting here.

  10. Stella says:

    Marianne, thank you. You and I have a lot in common.

  11. Stella says:

    Sterling, it’s ok, I’m a questioner too. I’m wondering about what follow up post you are talking about–one on Jesus? Or that one about neuroscience I promised a month ago and never got ready?

    Course Correction, I always love to see your comments. Thank you for reading.

  12. mb says:

    “What if his life choices and teachings were simply a reflection of the power of enlightenment, conviction of who he is, and faith in his own ability?”

    Actually, I believe it was a reflection of who he knew the Father was and his faith in his Father’s ability. I see that in his words about the connection between them. And I see that reflected in my own attempts at discipleship. The times when I come out of my selfish little world most powerfully are the times when God is most real to me.

    “What if everything that Jesus taught and was, I can learn and be—not in heaven, but RIGHT NOW?”

    You can. I believe the kingdom of heaven and salvation and embracing the light are meant to be in all stages of our existence.

    “What if he was just a man—a man who tapped into some higher part of himself that WE ALL HAVE?”

    We all have the potential, but we don’t simply find it hibernating within us. It is tapped as we connect to God, in whatever way our lives, culture and religion or philosophy allow us to.

    Jesus was pretty clear about his belief that all the good that he did and was came from doing and living hand-in-hand with God, to whom he referred as “the Father”.

    So, I believe that the way we become true followers of Jesus is by becoming completely and humbly honest with God about who we are and what we are really like and then letting God in and having the courage to do the hard stuff he encourages us to open our hearts and do. I believe that’s what Jesus did.

    But most Christians, like most humans, are too worried or busy or afraid to do that right off. It takes years of living and listening to God with the attendant course correction to get there. It’s a process. Not all see it as possible, and of those who see it as possible, not all get past their fear enough to attempt it.

    So perhaps the most pertinent question is, if we want to be like Jesus, how do we get past that fear, dishonesty and comfortable stagnation that keeps us from connecting with God?

  13. mb says:

    I should clarify:

    The times when I come out of my selfish little world most powerfully are the times when God AND THE IMMENSITY OF HIS LOVE are most real to me.

    Perfect love does tend to cast out fear.

  14. newt says:

    Stella! I love this post. I love thinking of Jesus as a pattern for my life. I participated in this women bible study group while I was in college and we studied the Gospel of Mary (or maybe it’s called the Book of Mary) – but it is really a lot more ephemeral, and it talks a lot about this kind of thing. It was my first introduction to this way of thinking about the role of Jesus and our own divinity in such a direct manner like that, and it somehow resonated with me a lot more than other things I had heard in the past.

    Why do we expect that Christ has something in common with us? Wouldn’t it be just as fair for us to identify what we have in common with him?

    How are these different? I think it’s the same when you come down to it. It’s about recognizing our own divinity and that of others.

    What are the implications of believing that the power to change is within us? Why do we sometimes find it so hard to believe that the power to change comes from tapping into the divine?

    Again, why do we have to draw these distinctions? The divine is inside of me, it is inside of you, it is inside of God, it is inside of everything. Divine is where the pureness of everything resides.

    What evidence do we have that love is less transformative than enlightenment?

    The more and more I live, the more it seems that enlightenment is love and love is enlightenment. An expansion of ourselves, our minds, our hearts until we have transformed into something higher, nobler, more human AND more divine.

  15. Sterling Fluharty says:

    I was thinking of the neuroscience one.

  16. gina says:

    Am I the only person who had a knee-jerk reaction AGAINST this post? The word I thought while reading the fourth paragraph was “blasphemy!”

    “What if he wasn’t really born of a virgin birth, what if his birth and life were just like mine–only he started to understand deeply his own divinity—which is JUST like mine? What if he heard prophecies of a Messiah and decided to step up and fulfill those prophecies—not because he was any different or more divine than I am, but because he was willing to act.”

    WHAT?!?! these are things I simply cannot accept. How was Jesus able to lead a sinless life? Because he was/is God. This is the difference between Mormon beliefs and those of most mainstream Christianity. It’s impossible for us to conceive of a man who could resist all we cannot. Christianity, though, says that Jesus was God and was able to resist because of his unique perspective as the divine, perspective we sorely lack.

    To diminish Jesus and/or elevate ourselves so as to create equality is heresy. We can try to emulate Christ, but will never get there, “enlightened” or not. 🙁

  17. Aimee says:

    This is an interesting post and comment thread for many reasons. Firstly, it gets right to the heart of a uniquely Mormon dilemma that is in part, I think, what Gina seems to be responding to–namely, the Mormon belief that all human beings on the earth *are* co-eternal, uncreated intelligences with God, Jesus and all other divine beings (D&C 93:29). Moreover, a central premise of LDS doctrine is a belief that all human beings have the potential to progress and become gods themselves–co-equals with our own divine parents and savior (read Joseph Smith’s King Follett discourse). This concept has put us at odds with many in the more traditional Christian world (who would indeed find this notion blasphemous) and sometimes even with others of our own faith who are uncomfortable with dieties this human. Perhaps it is uncomfortable for us to feel like we have too much in common with our God and Savior when there is still so much in ourselves we are striving to improve. We don’t want other people that have ever been too much like us in charge of the universe and salvation, right?

    But coming from a Mormon point of view, Stella’s post follows a certain orthodoxy that is very present in Mormon scripture. In fact, the very section of the paragraph Gina cites from the post that she finds “blasphemous” is an almost verbatum Sunday school answer to how Mormons believe Jesus acted in the council in Heaven in the PRE-existence.

    It is interesting how it often seems that suggesting the possibility of Christ experiencing an awakening to his divine mission while in mortality is deemed blasphemous even while we openly worship him for that precise act in the pre-mortal world. I can imagine a number of arguments one could make for why one scenario is more acceptable than another, but at the end of the day the point remains the same–Mormons believe in eternal histories, divine humans and humans who can become divine. This exercise in considering the many ways that souls develop divinity is personally useful to me as I try to figure out how to better tap into my own endlessly flawed, yet optimistic, eternal self.

  18. amelia says:

    gina, the fact that you had a knee-jerk reaction doesn’t entitle you to shout “blasphemy” at those who did not (even if you only e-shouted it). you think differently? that’s fine. voice your different opinion. but you needn’t be pointing fingers and calling names just because someone is willing to ask provocative questions that allow her to come to a new or better understanding of both jesus christ and herself.

    there is also the small problem of claiming that perceiving ourselves as equal to christ is blasphemous. it is not. the scriptures and mormon doctrine are very clear on the question of our divine nature and our equality with god and jesus christ. as god once was man now is; as god is man will become (i even subscribe to the [blasphemous] belief that i could use the word “woman” instead of “man” in that sentence). tell me how that conception of god and human does not equate to radical equality. the simple fact that i, as a mortal, am at a different stage in my eternal development than god, as a deity, is does not mean i am less than him; it does not mean i am not his equal; it simply means that i am at a different developmental stage. so yeah. i’m god’s equal. you can shout blasphemy at me now, too.

  19. Amelia says:

    you said it so much better than me, aimee. thank you. i’m in a bit of a mood tonight and it shows. i probably shouldn’t be commenting. 🙂

  20. gina says:

    Maybe I should qualify… I think I mean to designate the ideas of such things as heretical and/or blasphemous and not necessarily those believing in those things (as irrational as that sounds, I know…). I honestly could not believe what I was reading and have a sore jaw from all the gaping I was doing! In all of my visits to Mormon wards (which number quite a few), talks with RM friends, and reading of a portion of the BoM, I have never come across such things! I guess this is just one of the things they don’t tell non-members…

    I think the real shock came not in knowing that strangers believed these things which are a theological affront to all I know about the very nature of God, but in knowing that people I know personally, and respect as so rational, could think this is true.

    I know I’m digging a deeper hole for myself with this post which’ll probably come across as just as inflamatory as the last, but I don’t really mean it to be. I’m just shocked 🙁

  21. Aimee says:

    Well, in fairness to many of your Mormon friends, Gina, it’s probably fair to say that the way this post is framed is certainly not within the generally accepted Mormon way of thinking, either. Many active Mormons would have as many problems looking at Jesus in such human terms as Stella expresses. I’m not at all surprised that this has not come to your attention before as you’ve attended LDS meetings or spoken with LDS friends, as the particular human-ness of this post would make it a risky topic in the mainstream Mormon church as well.

    That is partly why this group exists. There are parts of Mormon theology that many members of this group wish were emphasized or talked about more in the mainstream LDS church–equality between the sexes and the potential divinity in all human beings being just a couple of them. The fact is that the root of these concepts and interpretations can be found in a variety of founding doctrines and documents of the church and for many of us, it’s worth reminding ourselves as well as other members of our faith that these views are not as radical a departure from our core beliefs as they may sound right off the bat.

    I respect your personal view that what is expressed in this is post is an unorthodox Christian position and am also willing to admit that there are active Mormon members who would in large part agree with you. What I am also asking, just as we ask Mormons who come to this site and take issue with the interpretation and opinions of our writers, is to refrain from making pronouncements of a persons orthodoxy or heresy in the eyes of God. On nearly every theological topic there is always room for considered debate and I certainly hope that by showing respect and non-judgement toward each other (as much as any mere human is able) we can all become more enlightened on these subjects with which we are all so clearly invested.

  22. Stella says:

    Sorry I’ve been away from the thread for a few days. Sterling–I am finishing up one more neuroscience book and then I’m going to do my follow up post! I have to be prepared!

    MB: I’ve always seen you as a stalwart person of faith here in the bloggernacle. Thank you, again, for showing that faith and for putting it so eloquently.

    NEWT: You are simply a GODDESS with words. I love all that you say and I’m so happy I’ve connected with you more in depth the past few weeks!

  23. Stella says:

    Gina–I hope my ideas didn’t come off as being something that I am proclaiming to be true. But you know what, God is God–and God can handle my questions. I’ve decided that questioning makes me non-complacent in my life. Questioning pushes me forward, questioning sooths my fast brain.

    Why is it ANY more strange to question the opposite of what we have been taught. It seems strangers to believe in a virgin birth and a snake who spoke to a woman (this woman came from the rib of a man, by the way) and told her to eat and apple and that the act of eating an apple caused the downfall of man and made him mortal. My brain, logically, questions these things. I think it’s ok. Like I said, God can handle it.

    Questioning what we’ve always been taught as true and finding new light and understanding around it makes me feel as if I’m progressing in a way that is comfortable for me. So right now, believing that Jesus was a human being, just like me, is a lot more inspirational than any virgin birth.

    At the same time, I would never try to talk anyone out of believing that if that is where they drew strength and comfort.

  24. Stella says:

    Aimee–Wow! Brilliant thought my friend. I love when I hear things I haven’t heard before. I love your thought process and I thank you so much for sharing it with me here.

  25. Stella says:

    Amelia! Your comments are ALWAYS welcomed and valued and you know that you and I have similar journeys and thoughts. I value yours. The scriptures are clear about our divine nature, but I find that when I am truly seeking to be as divine as I can, people get shocked and offended. When I want the priesthood or to have a female bishop or that I can chose my own path, even if it’s a bit untraditional but sits better with me–well, I always remember. It’s not between me and people, it’s between me and God. Always has been.

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