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Monday, November 12, 2018

The Cross-Shaped Way; the Christ at the Crossroads

Jesus, according to Luke 9:23, said to His disciples ( including would-be disciples ), 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross [b]daily, and follow Me'. Although He spoke these words directly to those living in first-century Palestine, most Christians today ( not incorrectly ) read these words & apply them ( anachronistically ) to themselves. There are areas of the world, China, for instance, or even some parts of the Middle East, where to be a Christian almost quite literally means just that, for if one acknowledges they are a Christian, death is almost sure to follow!

Although in some areas of the world. following Jesus Christ means to invite bodily harm or even death, in the West, at least thus far, 'taking up one's cross' simply means to follow Jesus, acting as He did, suffering through trials & tribulations while never giving up the faith. Many who Claim the Name in those formerly named areas of the globe almost gladly invite death, for much the same reason that the more fanatical Muslims do, counting it all 'Glory' to die for 'the Cause of Christ', looking for that 'pie-in-the-sky' called 'Heaven', or 'the Afterlife'. This is not to say there is no such thing as 'Heaven', or even a sort of 'Afterlife', although both concepts, or at least the traditional understanding of them, are based rather squarely in Greek mythology. That said, however, it must be noted that both Christian & Muslim alike base their beliefs on a contextual misunderstanding of Jesus' words!

To do what Jesus did ( WWJD? ), in the West,  ( in particular ) means to live with compassion & kindness, to name 'wrong' as wrong, yes & right as 'right', but it does NOT mean to force our views on others ( against their will )! To live as the Master lived means to walk in the way of Love, treating others as we want to be treated, not defending a book or other material thing to the death, even though Jesus Himself told His disciples to 'seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness', for all these ( material ) things are provided for. 'The Kingdom of God, according to the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures, was personified in Jesus, therefore, the Jew ( or Gentile ) who took up their cross ( daily ), living a sacrificial Life, as He did, that one was seeking first the Kingdom & thus the Righteousness that came to Israel through their Messiah alone. Again, while in that part of the word & particularly at that Time, to follow Jesus often meant carrying a literal cross to a place outside the City; in this day & age, it is generally understood as living sacrificially, placing the needs of others above our own & giving of ourselves as we can, so that others might share our Bounty!

We must choose every day, in this 'cross-shaped way', whether to love our neighbor as ourselves, or whether to treat them as we would never want to be treated! Even if one treats us other than how we would like to be treated; rather than treating them in kind ( call it 'karma' or what you will, you will surely reap what you sow! ), we must still treat others like we would want to be treated, for we still have a choice, though we often suffer even if we do rightly. When standing at the Crossroads of Decision, we must choose which way to go, how we should act in any given situation. Should we act as most everyone else, returning evil for evil, thus perpetuating the evil, or should we act in kindness & compassion as Jesus did, giving of ourselves ( as we can ) that others might live? The answer is obvious!

As the Messiah of Israel, Jesus came to save His People from their sins ( Matthew 1:21 ); that much is clear! Orthodox or not, the overwhelming majority of Christians accept the Jewish Messiah, or Savior, as their own. This is not necessarily wrong, though it does tend to lead many into all sorts of theologically anachronistic mistakes ( such as the notion that, because of the Fall ( Genesis 3 ) we are all born in sin ). The Birth, Life, Death & Resurrection of Jesus, as the Christ, the Anointed Savior of Israel indeed brought Israel Life from Death; when we pattern our own lives after His, living as He lived ( even in a metaphorical sense, as He died ), we awaken the Christ, or Chrism within ourselves, becoming the Savior, or one such, of our own 'world'!

In the Muslim religion, the thought of '72 virgins' in the 'afterlife' or 'heaven' has spurred & continues to spur many fanatics to commit such atrocities as 'suicide bombings': Christianity, though it promises no such thing, has, in the past, had much the same effect ( Crusades, Inquisition, etc. )! Here in the modern West, although we have not seen such atrocities ( necessarily ) as these committed in the Name of Jesus, there are many atrocities committed daily by those in the West, often with the willing acquiescence, if not participation of some who call themselves 'Christians'. Now, granted, this most often occurs out of ignorance & a misplaced patriotic fervor, but nonetheless, the atrocities either countenanced or perpetrated by these misinformed zealots are not Christlike & merely serve the Law of Karma, bringing coals of fire down upon their & our heads!

The build-up of Karma over the past few centuries, for this country ( U.S.of A. ) in particular, has been the cause & effect of many, many wars & rumors of wars! ( 'Round & 'round it goes; where it stops no one knows!' ) If we are ever, as a nation. to get out from under such a horrible burden, we must, individually speaking ( for it all starts with the individual ), begin to choose better; to love our neighbor as ourselves, to treat others as we ourselves would like to be treated. In fact, if we would understand that there truly is no other, for we are all of one Great Spirit, One True Source, then things would begin to turn around, because we would realize that, by killing 'the other', we are only killing ourselves!

May it be,
Charles Haddon Shank

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