The big problem we humans face in the world today is our inability to love one another. Of all the institutions in the world that can solve this problem, humanity puts it hope in the religious institutions. Why? Secular institutions made attempts with ethics but it was corrupted by corporate interest. The goal of ethics has been reduced to determining what can be done legally in the pursuit of making a profit.
Yes, the golden rule may be defined as do unto others as you would have done unto you. Thus, the ethical response is like a chess move, let me gain the upper position over you, before you can gain the position over me. Love on the other hand is putting others before self. Jesus states the minimum requirements (love other’s as equal to self) but demonstrated what love really looks like in action (put others before self).
John 10:14-15 (NKJV) I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
Daniel 7:14 (NKJV) Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.
In many ways, religion has become a tool of identity politics and communities that once gathered for spiritual reasons have been reduced to grass roots recruiting grounds for political constituencies. All the while, Jesus remains at the task of building a kingdom from every nation on earth. Unfortunately many religious groups are going through the motions by choosing winners and losers based on religious affiliation. More importantly national political policy is being crafted around religious affiliations.
Jesus came to break down those distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, and male and female. Even the Prophet Mohamed placed all the religious relics of the warring tribes into a single tent in order to unite the worship of many nomadic peoples. The arc of humanity is on a trend towards removing that, which separates.
We can also define love as the removal of distance between people, and beauty as the removal of distance between people and objects. When in nature one comes to a clearing or a view that makes you feel that you are one with all that you see. Even the lobbies of some purposely design buildings create this feeling of oneness. Many times, what is mistaken for sexual attraction is a sense of oneness between two people.
Many of our great travel experiences are when we leave our usual cultural setting and immerse ourselves into another culture. The sense of oneness, the welcoming feeling and embrace we experience is hard to put into words. And when we return to our usual cultural norms, we quickly notice how our culture requires us to identify and shed all identity from outside cultures.
I encourage you to be agents of change within your religious cultures helping them to embrace the outsider or your neighbor or the Samaritan. The OT and NT uses the Samaritan as the one group that should be embraced but are always rejected. The Samaritan’s accepted Jewish religious traditions while sharing captivity with the Jews. They were abandon when the wall was rebuilt and religion was returned inside the walls of Jerusalem. The star in one of Jesus’ parables, the women at the well and the object of the disciple’s wrath when they want to ask God to rain down fire from heaven. The Samaritan’s are equivalent to African descendants in western culture today.
If Jesus and Mohammad could see their spiritual communities that were originally designed to love and reduce the separation, they both would be disappoints with their respective religions today. Membership and group identity have replaced the actions of love. Disciples of both of these religions have become devotees to the culture, ignoring the words and actions of their founders.
Each of these religious cultures is in need of a reformation to regroup to the original goals set forth by their founders. What the world needs is love, which is the spirit not the law of these cultures. More important is that there are many in these groups that see the need for change and their voices are being drown out. Helping a religious culture keep its spiritual sensitivities is a noble task today. It is the hope of humanity.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Luke 10:25-37 (NKJV) and behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”
29 But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. 33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ 36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”