Up to now, Christianity has largely mirrored culture instead of transforming it. Reward/punishment, good guys versus bad guys, has been the plot line of most novels, plays, operas, movies, and wars. This is the only way that a dualistic mind, unrenewed by prayer and grace, can perceive reality. It is almost impossible to switch this mind during a short sermon or service on a Sundaymorning. As long as we remain inside of a dualistic, win/lose script, Christianity will continue to appeal to low-level and vindictive moralisms and will not rise to the mystical banquet that Jesus offered us. The spiritual path and life itself will be mere duty instead of delight, “jars of purification” instead of 150 gallons of intoxicating wine at the end of the party (John 2:6-10). We will focus on maintaining order by sanctified violence instead of moving toward a higher order of love and healing—which is the very purpose of the Gospel.
a match in which grace must win. When it doesn’t, religion becomes moralistic, which is merely the ego’s need for order and control. I am sorry to say, but this is most garden-variety religion. We must recover grace-oriented spirituality if we are to rebuild Christianity from the bottom up.
In Romans and Galatians, Paul gives us sophisticated studies of the meaning, purpose, and limitations of law. He says its function is just to get us started, but legalism too often takes over.
.. Why did they fail? Because they relied on being privately good instead of trusting in God for their goodness!
.. Law is a necessary stage, but if we stay there, Paul believes, it actually becomes a major obstacle to transformation into love and mercy. Law often frustrates the process of transformation by becoming an end in itself. It inoculates us from the real thing, which is always relationship. Paul says that God gave us the law to show us that we can’t obey the law! (See Romans 7:7-13 if you don’t believe me.)
.. We’ve treated Paul as if he were a moralist instead of the first-rate mystic and teacher that he is.
.. Ironically, until people have had some level of inner God experience, there is no point in asking them to follow Jesus’ ethical ideals. It is largely a waste of time. Indeed, they will not be able to even understand the law’s meaning and purpose.
.. Humans quite simply don’t have the power to obey any spiritual law, especially issues like forgiveness of enemies, nonviolence, self-emptying, humble use of power, true justice toward the outsider, and so on, except in and through union with God.
Note that God’s covenant with Noah is with “every living creature” and not just with humans. For some reason, some Evangelical Christians who say they believe the Bible, don’t like that! Yet it’s said four times in a row (Genesis 9:8-17).
.. What made us think humans were the only ones who love and are lovable? If unconditional love, loyalty, and obedience are the tickets to an eternal life, then Venus is surely there long before me, along with all the dear wild animals who care for their young at great cost to themselves—and accept their fate far better than most humans. When I had to make the very painful decision to put Venus to sleep on March 30 this year, she literally put her two black paws straight in front of her, stared at me, slowly bowed her head straight to the ground and died. I hope I will die with such trustful surrender.
The great wisdom teachers and mystics say in various ways that you cannot truly see or understand anything if you begin with a no. You have to start with a yes of basic acceptance, which means you do not too quickly label, analyze, or categorize things as good or bad. The ego or false self strengthens itself by constriction, by being against, or by re-action; it feels loss or fear when it opens up to subtlety, growth, change, and Mystery. Living out of the True Self involves positive choice, inner spaciousness, and conscious understanding rather than resistance, knee-jerk reactions, or defensiveness.
.. Compassion and mercy come easily once you live inside the Big Body of Love. The detours of the false self were all just delaying tactics, bumps in the road, pressure points that created something new in the long run, as pressure does to carbon deep beneath the earth.
The diamond of love will always be stronger than death. Diamonds, once soft black carbon, become beautiful and radiant white lightning under pressure. The true pattern, the big secret, has now been revealed and exposed, “like a treasure hidden in a field” (Matthew 13:44). You did not find the Great Love except by finding yourself too, and you cannot find your True Self without falling into the Great Love.