The Centrifugal Power of Jesus’ Example
Christianity believes that the world is divinely created, but has faulted to meet its purpose. I would put this very differently. Everything is created with a purpose, and we (and by that, I mean the individual, humanity as a whole, and the universe) are on a journey into our purpose.
It says in the book of Hebrews that God spoke in many ways through the prophets, but in these last days spoke through his son. I would love to give you my interpretation of what God was saying through Jesus. Please bear with me. I think it will be different from what you expect.
It says of Jesus that, as the time was ready, God sent forth his son. This sending forth speaks of the incarnation (God becoming human) and the going to the cross. But what for? (And I ask about both events and the in-between.)
As teenagers, what do we need most? I think we require a role model that shows us how to leave behind the childish things and become an adult, while preserving the childlike in our lives. Humanity at that time was in its teenage years, with some ready to go forward in a more in-depth understanding of life’s purpose, deeper than just being torn between egoistical and primitive drives (1st factor) and obedience to the law (2nd factor).
I see Jesus as the role model of how to live a “godly”, meaningful, purposeful, mature, and fulfilling life.
I see the purpose of humanity and especially the individual to reflect and make visible the divine in this world. Jesus said that he did nothing he did not see the father do, and that who had seen him had seen the father. Receiving and reflecting. This is why in the creation story, the Bible tells us that we are made in the image of God, or, a much better translation, that we are the mirror-reflection of God. We could say that Jesus saw an ideal that was qualitatively different from the “world’s” solutions in “God within”. We could say that he developed a 3rd factor and found his secondary integration, dead to the world yet very much alive.
And how did Jesus live?
He never faltered from his purpose. He spoke up, he demonstrated, he taught others, even unto death and death at the cross.
What did he experience?
He saw his mother suffer, was betrayed by one of his friends, yet a person who demanded money for the poor, only to use it for himself, was deserted by all his friends, tortured, his people chose a convicted criminal in his stead, humiliated, ridiculed, trolled, and crucified. I am sure I forgot a few things, but I would say that he experienced the epiphany of a “shit storm” and cancellation plus suffered probably most, even all possible human suffering.
And still, he stayed true to his calling, his purpose.
As much as we make of the resurrection, and I know it is probably the major stumbling block apart from the virgin birth (which I would argue is a church invention out of a wrong moral understanding of “having no sin”, but that is a story for another time), the result of Jesus’ life was that not even death could hold him.
I do not even care for now whether that is literal in the sense of an afterlife or him living on as the foundation of Western culture and maybe the most influential person ever to have lived, having changed the world for the better. And I am aware of all the atrocities that have been done in his name, which only adds to the suffering he had to overcome for the purpose he had: to give us an example of how to live a truly human, even humane life.
To live a human life therefore is to stand to and be true to one’s calling, which does include that we first have to find our calling. And that is the journey we are on, from infant to child to adult.
It is said of Jesus that he grew in wisdom and favor with man and God. We can see that he had to find his very own calling and purpose, just as we have to. But when the time had come, he stood without faltering.
What would the world look like if we all found and then stood to our calling?
Let me add another story. You might remember the story of Abraham and Isaac, as one night, Abraham heard the voice of God telling him to take his promised son and sacrifice him in a place that God would show him. After traveling for three days, they reached Mount Moria and Abraham prepared the sacrifice. Before he was able to kill his son, God intervened.
I am leaving out some details, and those who want to know more can go to Genesis 22.
This is an archetypal story setting humanity on a trajectory to not sacrifice their children, and later, to not sacrifice anything (with one exception). I see the first perceived voice of God standing for cultural beliefs (2nd factor). People thought that they needed to appease God or the gods through sacrifices (1st factor). This was never instantiated by the biblical God at all, but we find the need to sacrifice as early as with Cain and Abel. The Bible meets people where they are in their beliefs and nudges them onward as much as possible at the time. In the New Testament, it talks about giving ourselves as a living sacrifice. It is part of a healthy relationship and its giving and taking that we sacrifice, but that is only part of a polarity called loving our neighbors like ourselves.
But there is another slant to it.
It discusses not to sacrifice one’s future for the now.
Abraham is willing to sacrifice the promised future of the family and the tribe to have a good standing with God.
- Tribalism is willing to sacrifice the future in the form of their children to appease the gods.
- Warrior culture is willing to sacrifice the future in the form of their people to pull the gods to their side.
- Traditionalism is willing to sacrifice the future in the form of freedom and development to find acceptance with God.
- Modernity is willing to sacrifice the future in the form of our habitat to have success and comfort.
- Post-Modernity is willing to sacrifice the future in the form of those that question things to consent.
Isaac stands for his personal future as much as the future of humanity in a certain sense. We can see this for modernity easily as they are destroying our planet, but post-modernity is destroying our ability to think critically and creatively, and this will hinder us to find solutions.
I had this thought today:
Both Jesus and Abraham sacrificed their future, but there are crucial differences.
First, let’s look at motivations: both partially do what they do out of obedience and trust. But where does the initial idea or spark come from?
We are told that Abraham hears the command of God. Why do I believe that Abraham actually answered to cultural belief and interpretation of the time? In Jer 7:31 we read that God never even entertained the thought of human sacrifice. This for me institutes a cognitive discrepancy, a paradox, a problem.
Was it God, or was it Abraham’s understanding of God that demanded a sacrifice?
Most people live life motivated by two forces, two factors: their own primitive drives and instincts and peer pressure, cultural imprint and socialization. I called them 1st and 2nd factor.
- 1st factor: the need to belong, the need for peace and harmony
- 2nd factor: the culture and demands of those around you
But there is more. Jesus did not do things to satisfy his own primitive needs most of the time. He went away to pray and recharge, granted. But the Garden of Gethsemane shows us that not his will was paramount. He did not succumb to the culture of the day all the time either, but still became a rabbi.
But was it obedience that had him die at the cross? Yes, that was part of it. But there was more. There was a third factor: conscious, self-authored conscience. It sees an ideal and progresses towards it: to become a mature and self-authored person in the dialog with God.
Instead of sacrificing our future, how about giving ourselves as a living sacrifice? This could include to do without some stuff, but it also could include to speak up on behalf of Isaac.
Jesus’ example provides us with the centrifugal power to leave your primary integration based on your basic, primitive instincts and needs and the rules and regulations others put on you. Don’t sacrifice your future to belong. Sacrifice it to be. Be free. Be you. Be the I am.
How is Jesus’ example a centrifugal power? He not only shows us an ideal, but the ideal is not outside of reach, and he tells us how to reach it. Find our calling and then stand to it even though your instincts and your peers don’t get it.
Not everybody can do that on their own. Some do have the make to proceed like forerunners, pioneers, and visionaries, and others need examples and a great environment. A change of values and a great environment make 1st and 2nd factor align and become centrifugal as well.
It is great that nothing of that is about our ticket to heaven, but about a loving father investing in his children.
Find our calling and then stand to it even if your instincts and your peers don’t get it.