I had a lively discussion with family members recently about faith, God and what happens to us after we die. One woman believes the whole world is a giant soul, plants, animals and all, evolving over generations. We die and return to continue our evolutionary, spiritual mission. The journey is to learn how to love one another.
A man believes we determine our destiny based on what we believe will happen to us. Thus, we are unconsciously in control of our destiny. He has been a good man and therefore expects a good reward. The idea that past ‘sins’ might be held against him has no meaning for him. A third person believes she has no control over what happens in the after life so why worry about it. All reject the notion of hell and fire and punishment.
I, of course, hold traditional Christian beliefs. There is a heaven and a hell. We go to heaven, not be being good, but by believing in Jesus. We offer contrasting views of ‘simplicity.’ I say Christianity is simple. They say it is complicated. I say that Jesus said, believe and be baptized. Believe in what?, they ask. Believe in him, I say. It is so simple. Surrender and you’re there. They reply by pointing out faults, flaws and inconsistencies in Christian teachings as they see them. One is the unequal roles of women. They reject the idea that the Bible is God’s word. “It was written by men,” they point out. That these men walked with Jesus or that they could be led by an invisible force called the Holy Spirit does not sway them.
I speak to a point my evangelical friend Mike often makes. A person must become convicted of their sin before they will consider the idea that they need Jesus in their lives. This confronts the central question of whether we are born good or bad. How can a baby be a sinner, they ask. I reply by pointing out how any two-year old quickly demands being the centre of the universe, wanting everything their own way. They grant me that one. Life is a battle, an inner conflict between the ego and the spirit.
One particular point of disagreement is that you can heal your inner struggles on your own strength. One woman believes we must love ourselves and only then we will love others. Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Thus, you need to love yourself first, she argues. I reply that this is a statement of equality. It is unclear which we should do first. My own experience, I put forth, is that I must love my neighbour first. In so doing, I heal my own inner wounds and conflicts. Otherwise, I will seek to feel loved by demanding changes from others to accommodate my needs.
We agree on the need to love one another. Where we disagree is whether we can do this on our own. I argue it’s not possible. She argues it is entirely possible. We just need to try hard enough. Another points out how alcoholics and AA base their program on the idea that is not possible on our own. We need to surrender. We need to admit we cannot heal ourselves on our own strength. She asks, “Does this mean God only wants those in deep trouble? What about me? I don’t have big problems.”
A third person recalls the struggles of three young family members, two of whom have already died from drug overdose. They remain unswayed. “It is mental illness,” they argue. Thus they put humanity’s need to be reconciled to God as the source of love in a medical box.
I have learned to listen and respect the opinions of others. They do likewise. We end a lively two hour conversation with hugs and much love. Each of us is free, I repeated throughout our chat. Jesus never forced his views on anyone. He offered us the truth as he understood it, as a man who claimed to be the son of God, indeed God himself. No views were changed but I for one learned a lot. I hope you have too.
In his peace, John
ps. To learn more about the natural human struggle between the flesh (ego) and the Spirit, watch this video.