Reframing the Word: When I Say Jesus …

By: Candace Chellew-Hodge

This is a continuation of a series of posts called Reframing the Word which is my attempt to “lift the veil” (the true meaning of “apocalypse”) on how we’ve been reading the traditional passages of Christianity through a literal lens for too long. This series will take common passages that are interpreted literally in the name of Christian exceptionalism (i.e. The belief that Christianity is the only one true religion, and Evangelicalism is its only true expression) and seek to reinterpret them through a metaphysical lens. I believe that Jesus and the other prophets spoke in metaphysical terms and never intended their words to be taken literally. I hope you enjoy this series! Please leave your comments below.

In your eyes, the light the heat
In your eyes, I am complete
In your eyes, I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes, the resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes, I see the light and the heat
In your eyes, oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light, the heat I see in your eyes
— In Your Eyes, Peter Gabriel

Me and Jesus, got our own thing goin’
We don’t need anybody to tell us what it’s all about
— Me and Jesus, Tom T. Hall

I am in love … with a man. Now, I’ve never actually met this man in person, though I have heard stories about him my entire life. I have seen pictures of him, but he looks different depending on which picture you’re seeing. In some pictures, he’s very tall and white, with blue eyes and long, flowing blond hair. In other pictures, he’s a little bit darker, with brown eyes and brown hair. In still other pictures I have seen of this man I adore, he’s black, with an afro and deep brown, soulful eyes. In some more modern day depictions, he’s winking and giving a thumbs up — that playful buddy who always has my back.

There are paintings of this man as well … some of them depict him by himself, making what could be gang signs with his hands. In other paintings he’s alone kneeling and praying, playing with children or petting an animal such as a sheep. In most pictures, he has his arms stretched wide as if he’s waiting to give us a warm embrace. My favorite picture of him, however, is the one where he’s sitting at a big table drinking wine, eating and partying with a bunch of his friends.

I’ve discovered that my love for this man, however, has little to do with what he looks like, whether he’s white, brown, black or purple with polka dots. What I love best about this man is that every picture I am always drawn to his eyes … no matter the color … they are always intense, yet loving … piercing, yet inviting … seeing, yet wanting to be seen … full of light, yet so full of heat. I’ve left this man a few times over the course of our relationship, following after others who I mistakenly believed could keep me awake and alive. But, I always come back to the place where he is — deep within me.

The man I am in love with is, of course, Jesus … that 2,000-year-old codger who still looks young and strapping no matter how many years pass. It’s hard to explain exactly why I love this Jesus guy, especially since the traditional church has done so much to portray him as a finger-wagging moralist with dead eyes who teaches that we are separate from God and in need of a good, old-fashioned blood sacrifice to get back into this bloodthirsty and violent God’s good graces.

I love this man, even though the church tells us that he only loves good, moral, straight, white American who pledge allegiance to both the U.S. and Christian flag and faithfully vote Republican, even if it’s against their own economic self-interest.

I love this man, even though the church has armed him to the teeth and turned him into a warmonger who is expected to ride back to earth at any moment on a powerful steed, wielding a fiery sword ready to slay all the infidels and rapture the faithful.

I love this man, though, because I know all of these images are false, because those eyes do not lie. Those eternal eyes, when we are willing to look deeply within their vastness, can make us complete in a way that the church’s horses and all the church’s men could never put us back together again.

Those eyes invite us to reach out, not for some salvation or atonement out here … but to reach out from the inside, from within our own soul, from our own light-filled eyes, and come back to the place where the Christ really lives — within each of us.

Who Do You Think I Am?

I find I’m actually a little bit jealous of Peter as he’s depicted in Matthew 16:13-19 because he actually got to physically see the light and the heat of those Jesus eyes live and in person. In this scene, Jesus talking with his disciples about who the people are saying he is. Some, he’s told, believe he’s John the Baptist come back to life, or the reincarnation of Elijah, Jeremiah or some other prophet. But, Jesus is really not all that interested in what other people think of him. He wants to know how those closest to him, the ones who have had a chance to peer into those infinite eyes, see him.

“Who do you say that I am?” he asks.

And for once in his life, Peter, that stumbling, bumbling, getting it wrong most of the time disciples, nails it.

“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” he says.

Now, in a more traditional reading of this passage, this is where mainstream Christianity wraps up its theology of Jesus as the only incarnation ever of God on earth in its nice exclusionary bow.

“See?” They tell us, “Jesus is the Son of the God, the Messiah, the only one chosen to embody God on earth.”

Oh, but it’s so different when we read it in Greek. Peter tells Jesus his is the Christos, the Messiah, which really means Peter has recognized that Jesus is fully living into his Christ consciousness, that spirit of the Divine that dwells within each of us.

Peter says, “You are the son … the huios … of the living God.” That Greek word huios, doesn’t just mean one person. It means anyone who is loved by God, and not just any God but the “living God,” that zao theos. That word, zao, means “to have true life,” or “to really enjoy life.”

So, what Peter really says to Jesus is this: “You are the embodiment of the Christ consciousness that is present within all of the beloved children of the God of true delight and joy.”

This is the moment that Peter awoke from his ego long enough to see the Christ, the divine in Jesus.

“Bingo!” Jesus says to him. “And I’m not the only one, you have it, too!”

He tells Peter this — who before this was known as Simon — by giving him a new name. He calls him “Petra” or “rock” which means that Peter is a strong soul with the ability to awaken to his true self. This rock, Jesus says, will have the power to overcome ego and unite people. This is what Jesus means when he tells Peter he’s going to build his church on him. He doesn’t mean he’s going to give us a myriad of denominations who fight over doctrines such as baptism, virgin births, hell or who can sleep with whom.

He tells Peter he’s going to build a church, an ekklesia, or community, on Peter’s awakening that we can live from our True Divine Self and overcome our egos. The gates of hell, Jesus says, that misery that the ego tries to inflict upon us, cannot prevail against such an awakening. When we can realize that Christ consciousness, we become fully connected with God and the ego is then in its rightful place.

Peter sees the light and the heat in Jesus’ eyes — he yearns to be that complete. We all do, we all want to touch the light and heat we see in Jesus’ eyes when we truly see him for who he is — a human who has realized the divinity of his own Christ consciousness and tells us we, too, can be this complete.

We get it! We get excited! We glimpse the life that could be … and then, like Peter, we forget. We lose sight of our epiphany and ego regains its authority in our lives. 

Beauty Down Deep

“There is a beautiful creature living in a hole you have dug,” that Muslim mystical poet Hafiz wrote so long ago. (Read the entire poem here.) 

Like Peter, we have allowed our ego to dig a hole in our soul. This is where our true self is relegated when we live fully in our egos. We dig a hole and bury that divine self so deep we often don’t even realize it’s there.

But, anyone with those mystical, light-filled eyes can see the hole, and knows that something beautiful lives down there. The traditional religions don’t want us to find that beautiful creature or coax it out of the hole with fruits or grains or wine or song. When that beauty of our true self remains buried, we are easier to control, easier to hoodwink into thinking we need the cure religion offers us, when they invented the disease to begin with.

God invites us to fall in love with that someone — that True Self — that is hiding within each of us. When we see that beautiful divine creature that is our own divinity, we will never look outside for salvation again, because we know that all we need lives within us. All we have to do is see the light and heat of those divine eyes of our true self, then we will be complete.

Me and Jesus

Someone who clearly saw the Christ consciousness embodied by Jesus was the Apostle Paul. In his letter to the church in Galatia (Galatians 2:19-21), he, like Jesus, tries to make it clear that living into our innate divinity is not just something Jesus did. This small piece of scripture truly encapsulates how we can meet Jesus again for the first time over and over again whenever we get stuck in the modern Christian idea of an exclusive, warmongering or political Jesus.

What Paul says is truly amazing when read in context in its original Greek, though the traditional translations of this passage are so often simply used to preach Christianity as the only way to connect with God. That’s not what Paul is saying. He’s saying that Jesus gives us the clearest example of how to overcome the lie that we have ever lost that connection with God in the first place.

He says, “I have been crucified with Christ.” Paul is telling us that his past life, his ego, has been overcome — he no longer lives in that old world ruled by his ego. To put a fine point on it he says, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”

The Greek word choice tells the tale. When he says, “It is no longer I,” the word used for “I” here is ego. It’s no longer the ego that lives in Paul, but that Christ consciousness that has come alive because of what Paul has experienced in Jesus, even though he, like us, never met the guy in person. Instead, he says “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

When read in Greek, he’s basically saying, “The life I live now” — which means in this present moment — “I live by faith in the son of God” — which means he lives trusting that huios or beloved child of God within himself — “who loved me and gave himself for me.”

That last part of the passage there is used as one of the proof texts that Jesus died for our sins, but that’s not what it means. What Paul is saying is Jesus didn’t die on a cross for our sins, instead he gave his life to show us the truth that we’ve never been separate from God. We don’t need a blood sacrifice to atone for any sins. The only sin we’ve ever committed is believing that we’re separated from God and one another. Atonement, or at-one-ment, simply means that we are willing to die to the ego and resurrect as our true, divine self which already knows that have always been at one with God and one another.

If we could do this by the law — or by the ego — Paul says, then Jesus died in vain, because he came to show us that we can’t serve two gods. We can’t be in our ego and in our true self at the same time. One of them has to go and so often it’s the beautiful creature of our true self that gets stuck in that ego-dug hole.

What both Jesus and Paul are trying to tell us is that the way of this world, it’s laws, traditions and conventional wisdom is the broad way of death. It’s the path of least resistance and so often we take it thinking it will be easier, but it’s not. Living an ego-ruled life is full of anxiety, depression, anger and pain. In this world, we believe that God is somewhere outside of us and we have to repent of being such a horrible person to get this God to even think about loving us.

Jesus, Paul says, came to show us the true way to live — as our True Selves. This is a path of surrender, a narrow path that may at first appear difficult, but as we begin to overcome our ego, it becomes the only true path to peace and joy. To follow this path, we have to surrender our ego — our need to be right, to be liked, to be respected, to feel secure in, and loved by, the world. That’s not an easy thing to do and most people are not willing to do it. We’re not required to walk this path, and to make it a requirement makes it no better than a new form of conventional wisdom.

Instead, what Jesus and Paul do in these passages is offer us an invitation to see the world as it really is. As theologian Marcus Borg says, the invitation is to see that “at the heart of everything is a reality that is in love with us.” That reality, Hafiz says, sits by the hole the ego has stuck us in and coaxes us out with sweet wine and song.

This is a Jesus with true power, a Jesus who invites us to walk the narrow path of love and joy and forsake the broad path of fear and anxiety. To do that though, you’ve got to meet Jesus again for the first time and know that, no matter what the world of ego tells you, you and Jesus have got it all worked out.  

The Jesus I Know

“Who do you say that I am?” That’s Jesus’ question to his disciples and remains his question to us today. What do you mean when you say Jesus? It’s an important question and one that will determine if you will walk the narrow — yet easy — path of love, or the broad — and difficult — ego-driven path of fear.

For me, when I say Jesus, I’m not talking about the one who died for my sins. I’m not singing that old Baptist hymn, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

When I say Jesus, I’m not talking about the one who says follow the rules and you’ll go to heaven. Or as I sang as a child: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

When I say Jesus, I’m not talking about the one coming back on a white horse with a fiery sword to smite his enemies singing, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war.”

When I say Jesus, I’m not talking about the militant, evangelical Jesus that commands us to march lock step in belief and recruit others to join us or else face an eternal fiery hell. “I’m a soldier, in the army of the Lord, I’m a soldier, in the army!”

No, when I say Jesus, I’m talking about the one who points beyond himself to the divine that dwells within each of us.

When I say Jesus, I’m talking about the miracle worker who said, “you can not only do what I have done, but you can do greater things!”

When I say Jesus, I’m talking about the Jesus who rejoices when we, like Peter, awaken just long enough to get a glimpse of the light and the heat of our own soul, that light and heat that allows us to see the world just as it is through the loving eyes of the eternal Christ within us. Because when we can see this world through those eyes Jesus gives us a new name. We are called “the rock” and on this solid foundation God will build the beloved community right here and right now.

When I say Jesus, I’m talking about the Jesus who calls us into this divine community, because even though overcoming ego is something we must do ourselves, we don’t do it by ourselves. Even Jesus gathered a little community around him because he understood that when he discovered more light in himself, those around him were emboldened to discover more light within themselves. This is what that ekklesia is all about — bringing more light forth from ourselves, and subsequently from the world around us.

But, ultimately, it’s your decision — who do you say Jesus is? Are you willing to crucify your ego and live into your true Christ consciousness? If you are, prepare yourself. You will be criticized, persecuted and perhaps even killed for turning away from this ego-driven world.

But, when you and Jesus get it all worked out, when you feel that light and that heat of those loving, divine eyes, you won’t need anybody to tell you what it’s all about.

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