An article briefly outlining what a Christian's life today should be, and the example set by Jesus the Christ for us.
By Cristo Rey
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What is a Christian life? What example did Jesus the Christ set? What should a Christian's life be today?
The purpose of this article is to attempt to answer these questions by a consideration of the self-evident facts of the example set by Jesus the Christ for a "Christian life" as revealed to us by the inspired Word of God in the New Testament Scriptures.
It is the reasonable expectation of the author that the readers are familiar with the basic historical facts of the life of Jesus the Christ and of his work as presented to us by the inspired Word of God in the Scriptures, and for the most part the author will dispense with referencing to them except where emphasis is required.
What is a Christian life?
Christians today worry about what a Christian's life should be, and strive in very diverse ways to fulfill their imagined idea of a "Christian Lifestyle."
As a point of correct historical fact, there is nowhere in the direct Word of God as brought to us by Jesus the Christ Himself anything concerning a particular or specific "Christian Lifestyle" which Christians are expected to lead . . .
Christians in America, particularly, are over-preoccupied with these matters, and over the last two centuries have taken their guidance from the Apostle Paul, without realizing that much of what the Apostle Paul advocated in these regards were merely customs founded in his own particular cultural roots. As Christians have deep-seated emotional needs for guidance on this aspect of their life, they are prone to acquire whatever version of a lifestyle best suits their individual emotional needs.
For the most part, today's devout American Christians follow the dictates of their primitive Anglo-Saxon and British antecedents, without the awareness that much of what they have instituted in their lifestyles is neither "Christian" nor does it follow from the example set by Jesus the Christ.
The British example is particularly a peculiar asceticism, that is the doctrine that through renunciation of worldly pleasures it is possible to achieve a high spiritual or intellectual state (From: WordNet Search) which is not suited for a modern, scientific, technological, metropolitan society.
Scientific findings in the field of Animal Behavior reveal to us that when there is perpetual overcrowding in relatively isolated populations, the members of the population develop elaborate "appeasement" rituals for greeting each other, and diverse body language "displays" as messages of their need for individual "space."
The British, an isolated people on an island, developed both of those, and in addition some others peculiar to the human species. These developments were already being established within the antecedents of the British people. The isolation and over-crowding also led to two, very important additional individual characteristics in their behavior and personalities; One, in order to reduce friction and conflict, the individuals developed an overly-emphasized control of their emotions, and the other, an asceticism punctuated by a prudish control of their sexual impulses, a development which reached its heights during the Victorian Era (Wikipedia: Victorian morality).
The length of time involved in these developments (centuries), and the tendency of the society to grant ease of life to those who followed them, with individuals selecting marriage partners on the basis of their prospective partners being genetically able to institute these behaviors with ease, has led to a genetic population whose members institute the "expected" behaviors with ease.
To be clear, these developments are not uniquely British, and although different in their cultural expression, one can find them in the extremely over-populated Oriental peoples. The Japanese and Chinese, particularly, have developed very time-consuming and elaborate "appeasement" greeting rituals, involving the mutual "bowing or cow-towing" of the individuals upon meeting, for the reciprocal communication of the unmistakable signal of their non-aggressive intentions. Many other examples abound, but the reader can discern these from his/her own general knowledge of the peoples and cultures of the World.
Let it be clear, that there is no such thing as an expected "Christian Lifestyle," none was demanded by Jesus the Christ, nor by the Word of God as brought to us by Him . . .
A Christian should lead a life, and develop a lifestyle, independent of his/her "Christianity," but modified by his/her acquisition of the spiritual philosophy, ideals, and values which Jesus the Christ bequeathed to us.
Whatever physical style of life, demeanor, sexuality or sexual orientation, manner of dress, etc., a Christian has already developed is totally irrelevant to his spiritual life as a "Christian" . . .
"Christianity" is the norm of SPIRITUAL BEHAVIOR expected of "Christians" in interaction with each other, and in their contribution to the life of their community and nation.
It is this "SPIRIT" or spiritual behavior which is most important, and which Jesus the Christ emphasized in several of His discourses on the matter:
"It is the spirit that quickeneth;
the flesh profiteth nothing:
the words that I speak unto you,
they are spirit, and they are life." (Jn 6:63)
What Jesus the Christ is telling us in clear, unmistakable language in these passages is that we should not worship God physically but worship Him spiritually. His Word, clearly and unambiguously says that we must not worship God physically . . . that was what was done by barbaric and primitive religions with their gods . . . so we are not to worship God physically in a "church" building with a congregation, with physical rituals and displays, that is barbaric, primitive, profane, and against the clear admonitions of Jesus the Christ, His Son.
We should abandon any Religion or Church which requires us to be in attendance at a physical building in a congregation for the "worship" of God, such physical form of worship is misguided, and the product of the barbaric, primitive, backwards traditions of the mind of Man . . .
To reduce the worship of God to a physical worship, or to concerns and a context about a "physical lifestyle," is a travesty of His clear, unmistakable Word, regardless of invented rationalizations and justifications . . .
To worship God spiritually, means to institute spiritually into our lives the philosophy, ideals, and values which His Word as brought to us by His Son, Jesus the Christ instill in us, and none of that implies a personal physical norm of behavior, and to mutilate the concept into that, is a travesty.
As "Christians," we should follow Jesus the Christ's admonitions on these matters to the fullest extent possible for us. That is, not to worship God physically, but spiritually, and to worship God spiritually is merely to love God and let His Word rule and guide the spirit of our everyday life, whatever that life already happens to be . . . Our physical life sometimes will be dictated by other than our free and independent will, or by behaviors and quirks we have already culturally acquired, or individually acquired from our families or personal experiences.
Worship of God . . . is merely love of God . . . pure and simple . . .
The crux of the misunderstanding comes from our lack of real understanding of what is meant by "spiritual," or what "spiritual" means. "Spirits" are emotional states of mind which give shape and form to our life or behavior. Unbelievable as it might seem, we can be "spiritual," "Christian," and in "worship" of God even in our routine everyday lives, provided we adhere faithfully to the philosophy, values, and ideals which the Word of God as brought to us by Jesus the Christ prescribes for us.
In successfully carrying a "Christian" life spiritually, we are "worshiping" and "honoring" God, and in obedience of His wishes.
None of this has anything at all to do with how we conduct our lives physically, and how we conduct our lives physically is by itself regulated and controlled by the inescapable, unavoidable, and immutable physical Laws of God as applied to us by the eternal Law of "Action and Consequence," or the Biblical "Sowing and Reaping." If we lie, we are sure to eventually be found out, and pay the consequence of being known as a "liar," and not be believed by anyone from then on . . . the same goes for stealing, murdering, and all other "sins." But none of that has anything at all to do with being a "Christian," and applies universally to everyone whether they are Christians or not. The fact that as Christians we have a keener understanding of this, only enhances our ability to order our secular lives as "Christian." Conversely, it is possible for non-Christians to lead sin-free secular lives, sparing themselves of the consequences of "sinful" actions.
What then, is a Christian life?
A Christian Life is a "spiritual" life, lived so as to create and promote in us and others the philosophy, values, and ideals brought to us by Jesus the Christ . . . that is, recreating constantly in ourselves and others the emotional moods, dispositions, or frames and states of mind (spirits) which His philosophy, values, and ideals instill in us:
The awesome difference between a non-Christian who leads a sin-free life and a Christian, then, is in the spiritual realm. The Christian has the advantage of creating in himself or herself, the internal and external spiritual environments which liberate their minds, souls, and spirits from certain secular stifling conditions which still shackles the existence of the non-Christian.
For example, in the previous Communist Russia, there were avowed and devout atheistic communists who led very austere, ascetic lives which were more perfect than the most "perfect" of Catholic saints. Such behavioral "perfection," however, was obviously not sanctioned by God, and was totally lacking in the real and palpable result of a liberation of their minds to the extent of being inspired by the Word of God into the saving and perpetuation of their system or nation. The same applied to the very ultra-ascetic, primitive Hebrew people in Jesus the Christ's time (Pharisees and Saducees), and to the summa-plus-ultra-ascetic Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox elements in present-day Israel. These same deficiencies were present in the very ascetic members of the British Empire, and in the white citizens of the pre-Civil War, Racist South in America, and in the Union of South Africa. ALL of the peoples in these examples quickly "reaped" the consequences of their "sowing" . . . their own personal and communal destructions.
What example did Jesus the Christ set?
Jesus was not a superhuman, He was an ordinary human being, proven by the fact that He is described in many places in the Scriptures as crying, being tired, sleeping, eating, bathing, angry, afraid, regretful, bragging, joking, swearing, sweating, with hunger, with thirst, in pain, bleeding, and finally dying. He had an Ego, and many times was described as being argumentative and combative, and at other times insecure in Himself. He had a highly driven personality, driven to "fulfill" the prophecies in the Old Testament about the Messiah. He ate and drank wine heartily, and promised just before His death that He would be drinking wine in the Kingdom of God with His followers (Mt 26:29).
He repeatedly, in acts of Civil Disobedience, broke many of the laws shackling the people, including teaching in public and in the Temple grounds (Mt 21:23), helping to heal the infirm by doing the work of His Father on the Sabbath (Mt 12:10), not engaging in the ritual washing of His hands and utensils before eating (Mk 7:5), opposing the primitive judicial minds of his society (Jn 8:3-11), and finally just before His death, opposing the sacrificing of innocent animals on the Temple, and the Temple practices themselves (Mt 21:12-13, Mk 12:33, Mk 13:2). The full extent of His passive-resistance, and civil disobedience rebellious acts are too numerous to review here, and the reader is expected to re-read the New Testament Apostolic Scriptures for a fuller accounting.
From these Scriptural descriptions which the readers can scan at their leisure, one can only reach the inescapable and unavoidable conclusion, that were Jesus living in our Era, He would have been more at ease in the company of the "Hippies" and "Flower Children" of the Decade of the 1960's in the Twentieth Century. It would take a twisted satanic mentality to reach any other conclusions from Jesus' own proud descriptions of His "lifestyle" then (Mt 11:19, Jn 21:22).
But it should not be His physical life and behavior which should concern us, except to demonstrate by His example, vividly, that a "Christian" life should be primarily a "spiritual" life, nothing we do in the "flesh" (e.g., restraining of the flesh) profiteth as He said (Jn 6:63), and we waste our valuable time and effort in our attempts to achieve the life of an "ascetic" and "saintly" Pharisee, holier-than-thou Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Rabbi, austere Communist Commissar, pompous Catholic Cardinal, prissy Soldier of the British Empire, or Kentucky-Fried-Chicken, slave-owning Southern Gentleman-Colonel.
Achieving any or all of those would probably only buy us a one-way ticket to the "hottest" place in the Universe, . . . that, History has already shown us . . .
What should a Christian's life be today?
A Christian today should lead a physical lifestyle designed from, and adapted to whatever appropriate economic, social, psychological, and ethical environment in which he or she wishes to function, and by the physical secular norms of that environment, but tempered and modified to be a living testament of the spiritual philosophy, values, and ideals in the Word of God bequeathed to us by Jesus the Christ on His Cross . . .
Food for thought
The following verses, quoting the Word of God from Jesus the Christ directly, is the closest we have of what He regarded as the sum total of His Spiritual Philosophy and Values for our lives. They represent the expected Spiritual Values which we must institute into our "lifestyle" as Christians, nothing else is as important as these, as He was silent about everything else.
This passage is also His MOST COMPLETE explanation of what OUR FINAL JUDGMENT will consist of, what will be considered during our Final Judgment, nothing else will be considered; The so-called "sins of the flesh" will not be what will be judged, unless they are the result of our spiritual deviations; ONLY our "spiritual sins" WILL BE JUDGED:
And before him shall be gathered all nations:
and he shall separate them one from another,
as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand,
but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand,
Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the
kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat:
I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me:
I was sick, and ye visited me:
I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him,
saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee?
or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in?
or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them,
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it
unto one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand,
Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting
fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat:
I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in:
naked, and ye clothed me not:
sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him,
saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred,
or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison,
and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them,
saying, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the
least of these, ye did it not to me.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment:
but the righteous into life eternal." (Mt 25:31-46)
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