Jesus is a loaf of bread?! Why Biblical literalism makes no sense.

 

Why Biblical literalism keeps us away from the truth, and where the scriptures reveal they are symbolic. 

The Bible has suffered some real image problems in the last century – this ancient mystical book which was written to liberate man from the miseries of his human condition, has instead been used to suppress, shame, and assault him. The book which contains the famous pronouncement that; ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone’ (John 8:7), has ironically become the stone hurled at fed-up and beleaguered sinners everywhere. And it’s no wonder that puts people off – it’s a bloody heavy book.

It’s strange, isn’t it? That the same book which advises us that we are not to judge other people, is used precisely as the very means by some people to do just that. That the same book which repeatedly calls for us to love one another is used by certain groups to spread hatred. Why is it that some people open the book and see love, where others see hate? Why is it that some people read its words and hear poetry and wisdom and truth, where others hear nothing but contradiction, barbarism, and outright lies?

The answer, as always, can be found in perspective – or interpretation, to put it another way. That’s one of the strange and wonderful things about this book – it is not like other books. It is a mirror which reveals what is in your own heart.

I am writing this blog because I think it is now time for us to reclaim this ancient mystical book, which is full of esoteric wisdom, psychology, and spiritual truth for those who have eyes to see. This amazing book, which has been appropriated for politics and control, was designed for everyone to guide them on their spiritual journey. This is not a book about politics or religion, it’s a book about YOU! It contains the key to understanding life, love, your body, and your relationships with yourself, the world, and the creator. It is a sacred text of mystical poetry, and its message is one of hope and joy beyond comprehension.

So, let us begin.

There are two big problems: literalism, and translation. This post focuses on literalism. If the Bible is a book of spiritual truth then we must read it spiritually, which means looking beyond the superficial story and searching for the implied meaning. One of the main tenets of the Bible is that humanity is to ‘overcome’ the world. But what does this mean? It means the goal of man is to awaken to the illusory nature of the material world, and through development of his spirituality overcome it. It means he is to discover that both the truth and the value of life lie in the things he cannot see – love, compassion, joy, and truth. He is to ‘put away childish things’ – the silly trinkets and toys of the material world that we drool over – and grow up. We are advised to cast off the heavy shackles of the world and its burdens and demands, and through spirituality become light and free.

This is the key message of the Bible – that there is a great and awe-inspiring creative being in the universe which we call ‘God’ who most men are too blinded by self and materialism to see. It teaches that those who are to catch a glimpse of Him may only do so by looking beyond the physical and material to a greater reality. If God is transcendent, then we must transcend or go beyond the obvious to catch a glimpse of him.

When a writer or a filmmaker gets to work on a story, they usually have a message in mind that they would like to impart on their audience. The set, props, costumes, actors, and script are all things the directors use to communicate a deeper message. People don’t always understand what the films they love are really about, but this does not mean there is no deeper meaning. George Romero’s famous zombie-flick Dawn of the Dead is seen by many to be a just that – a horror film about zombies. But the film, which features a mass of ‘undead’ trying to eat the brains of a few living people hiding in a shopping mall, is actually a scathing critique on consumerism. The action is merely a conduit for the deeper meaning. And so it is with life, and so it is with the Bible. If we wish to see God, we must stop focusing on the drama and the set and the costumes, and instead think about what the underlying meaning is.

Every night when we go to sleep, we dream dreams. Most people cannot make sense of their dreams, because they speak to us in a strange and mysterious language of symbols that the rational mind can hardly comprehend. Throughout the Bible stories, God speaks through dreams. In Genesis, the profane and worldy Pharaoh cannot understand his dreams, but Joseph who is one of God’s ‘chosen people’ (spiritually awake) is able to understand what the dream means, because he understands that the language of symbols is the language God uses.

“Indeed God speaks once, Or twice, yet no one notices it. “In a dream, a vision of the night, When sound sleep falls on men, While they slumber in their beds, Then He opens the ears of men, And seals their instruction.
Job 33:14-15

The great mystics of the ages have understood the importance of dreams, and many of our most profound divine insights are gleaned from them. Indeed, Carl Jung, the famous founder of analytical psychology claimed that; ‘We have forgotten the age-old fact that God speaks chiefly through dreams and visions.’[1] St Augustine thanked God for not making him responsible for his dreams.

But the dream, which we do not understand, also symbolises our life. When we do not realise the truth – that the physical world is an illusion, and that spirit (God/love) is reality – we remain spiritually asleep, or ‘dead’ (which actually means separate). ‘Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.’[2]

For the Lord has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep, and has closed your eyes (the prophets), and covered your heads (the seers). And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.”
Isaiah 29:10-13

When we are ‘asleep’ in the carnal world, we are absorbed by its drama, but cannot make sense of it. We ask ourselves, ‘Where is God?’, and we do not understand why things happen to us. But when you understand the language of symbols you realise that God communicates with us all the time.

And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.”
Genesis 46:2

So we must learn the language of dreams – this is God’s language, for ‘the kingdom of God is within you’ (Luke 17:21).

The thing is, literal interpretations of the scriptures just don’t make sense. The Bible tells us that God commanded all manner of horrific atrocities – including the mass murder of men, women, and babies (which I will discuss in more detail in another post) but it also tells us that ‘God IS love’. How can this be? The answer is that these stories must be read symbolically – the physical is only useful as a means of revelation of the spiritual.

Given the right data, a computer could discern the who, what, where, when, and hows of history, but it could not even come close to the why. It takes a human to do that. Understanding why requires both human intelligence and emotion; empathy, intuition, and insight. These stories are more concerned with human psychology than human history, and become meaningful only when we learn to read between the lines. Does God express or reveal Himself through history? I would argue that He does, but I would also argue that whether or not these events literally took place is beside the point, because ‘truth’ like God, is transcendent. Truth, in the philosophical sense, exists independently of physical matter. So where events are present, they are only a means to an end. The end is life and truth; full union with God and liberation from illusion.

Reading these ancient mystical writings we must be careful to privilege the spiritual – taking a literalist approach elevates the physical over the spiritual, and elevates the things of man above the things of God. Literalism is not only erroneous, but morally problematic as well – because literal, fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible have resulted in countless wars, human suffering, bloodshed, and tragic loss of life.

…our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2 Corinthians 3:5-6

One of the key revelations of Jesus’s ministry was the symbolic nature of the scriptures – he knew that people were missing the point; ‘…for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.’ (Matthew 7:14)

To further demonstrate this, lets take a look at a few of the things Jesus said about himself:

I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger.
John 6:35

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture
John 10:9

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.
John 15:1

Now, obviously, not many people would argue that Jesus was actually a loaf of bread, or a door, or a vine – he was speaking symbolically, and this is the key to understanding the Bible. The scriptures are concerned with the spirit, so we must view the scriptures through spiritual eyes and not physical ones if we are to truly understand them.

but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory.
1 Corinthians 2:7

God’s wisdom is a mystery – this means it is a puzzle, and there are hidden ‘keys’ to help us solve it. The Bible is a book of allegory – profound spiritual truths, hidden in stories. The ‘wise’ are the ones who understand this, and are able to understand the true meaning of proverbs and riddles:

Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.
Proverbs 1:5-6

I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old
Psalm 78:2

Indeed, Jesus himself spoke in parables:

So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.
Matthew 13:35

When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’’
Mark 4:11-13

Let’s reflect on this for a second. Those who are ‘outside’ means those who are asleep spiritually – they only attempt to find meaning in the external, physical ‘world’ and do not go ‘within’ themselves to find truth. To these people, the scriptures will seem like nonsense, full of contradictions – and without this deeper spiritual context and understanding, they are. These are people who ‘see’ images but don’t perceive their symbolic (true) meaning; they ‘hear’ words, without understanding what they really mean. Those who are ‘outside’ themselves will not find the kingdom of god, because…

The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Luke 17:20-21

It cannot be any more plain than that. The ‘Kingdom of God’ is not coming in any way that can be observed. It is not a political takeover, but rather something we experience within ourselves both individually and collectively.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12

Beware those who would use the Bible to preach anything but love. Remember Jesus words;

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

You will recognize them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:13-16

Jesus states quite plainly here that the vast majority of people will not find the way – this means that the way most people are going is the wrong way. There are huge numbers of people attached to religions in the world today, but any religion or demonination which preaches anything but love, or condemns people and treats certain groups in an unloving way is in error. Remember, we are explicitly directed not to judge:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
Matthew 7:1-2

Religion itself can be the very thing which draws us away from God – Jesus frequently spoke out against the religious leaders of his day, and it was ultimately religion that had Christ crucified. It is love that draws us closer to God, not religion. Jesus came not to enslave us with the arbitrary rules and regulations of religion, but to set us free from them.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Galatians 5:1-6

Jesus directed us to test all teachers by their ‘fruits’. According to Paul, these ‘fruits’ of the holy spirit are identified as ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ (Galatians 5:22) Paul continues:

 …against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Galatians 5:23-24

 A religious or spiritual leader who condemns and speaks divisive, chauvinistic words is not of the spirit, but is speaking from ‘the flesh’. Jesus himself warned us about the fate awaiting those who preach anything but love:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.
Matthew 7:21-23

There is a war which has been endured throughout all history – a fierce battle raging within us each day. The Bible characterises this war as the struggle of the flesh (ego) against the spirit (soul):

the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
Galatians 5:17

To win the war, you must ‘know your enemy’. The flesh is rooted in fear and separation, the soul is rooted in love and unity, which is God. There is no fear when we walk in the spirit, because God IS love.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1 John 4:18

The ego is the thing which keeps us away from love, and separates us from each other and from God. So how do we recognise the ego? Paul describes it thus:

the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
Galatians 5:19-21

The ego chains us to the material world and its dramas. We find the kingdom of God by learning how to sacrifice our carnal nature – which is ego. We will exchange fear for love, bondage for freedom, materialism for wisdom, self-centredness for self-sacrifice, and self-serving for serving others.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2

You see, this is the big message of the Bible that Jesus was trying to teach us, and it’s so simple – that the path to God is unconditional love and self-sacrifice. God does indeed require a sacrifice, but it is not a slaughtered calf. It is sacrificing the ‘flesh’; the ‘beast’ within us (that is, our lower, ego-driven self or ‘carnal man’) by being willing to give up your ‘life’ for others:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
John 15:13

God (love) did not punish Jesus (who was ‘one’ with love) for our sins (mistakes), Jesus ‘died for our sins’ (mistakes) to show us the truth – the way to life (love). He overcame the flesh by nailing it to the cross. For the rest of us, being crucified is not necessary: we are reconciled to God when we ‘overcome’ the carnal world by changing our thoughts – realising that we are all connected, that we need to love and take care of each other, and that the physical body is not who we really are.

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
1 John 4:8

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:6

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
Matthew 22:34-40

You will notice that no-where in the above quote does it say exactly what name you must call God, or how exactly you must conceive of God, what cultural tradition you must have, and what expression this must take. It says only to love God (be spiritual), and to love others, and to love yourself.  Love is the answer – it really is that simple. Or difficult. As we will come to see, loving fully is one of the hardest things in the world, and it’s what we’re here to learn and do. I will end this post with Paul’s famous musing on the character of love – which is, to date, the finest description of its kind I have ever encountered:

The Way of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
1 Corinthians 13:1-8

 

[1] The Symbolic Life (1953) also in Man and His Symbols (1964)

[2] To patient in Cambridge MA, quoted in Gerhard Adler ed Letters Vol I

 

 

 

5 Comment

  1. Julia Grimer says: Reply

    I read this with interest. Many good insights. Would ask, however, what exactly is meant by “love” and what is meant by “judgement”. Jesus said to the woman taken in adultery, “Go sin no more”. He also drove the money lenders out of the Temple in anger. Presumably these things actually happened…we can be literal about the Bible here. It does sound like Jesus was “judging” them. The point I am trying to make it that pointing out that someone is “sinning”…ie…taking a wrong path, doing something harmful, is not necessarily judging in a bad sense if it is done for good intentions and in a tactful way (clearly name calling done hatefully is wrong). The Christian who stands outside the abortion “mill” praying, and trying to persuade the mother not to kill her child is portrayed by the media as extremely judgemental. But their intention, to prevent the mother making a terrible mistake, is a good one. The result, when a mother changes her mind and later thanks those who persuaded her to change her course for the baby she adores, and would not otherwise have, is clearly good.

    1. suzi_admin says: Reply

      Thanks for your comment – lots of questions! Most of these require their own post – but I will focus this response on the most important one:

      What exactly is meant by “love”?

      I think the model of love we are supposed to follow goes something like this: Love is the opposite of fear – those who are loving are brave, because bravery requires a willingness to sacrifice yourself for the sake of something else. Real love is not a fair-weather friend – it is made most manifest during hard times. Love (God) requires a sacrifice – this is written several times throughout the old testament. The jews erroneously believed this referred to an animal or a child sacrifice, until Christ came and demonstrated to the world that it was SELF-sacrifice with his work on the cross. Love doesn’t think of what it can take for itself, but what it can GIVE to others. Love doesn’t try to control others – love instead exercises SELF-control. Therefore, the Kingdom of God which Christ describes as being within us can be understood thus: it is a process of transformation which takes place within each person. When carnal man (Adam) tries to create a utopia by mandating changes to society, there is almost always an outcome which is flawed at best, or dystopic at worst. Therefore, the perfect world can only be achieved with perfect people – when people are transformed into the image of Christ by working on their character, there will be no need for police, because there will be no crime. I would even go as far as saying there will be no need for money, because people will freely give what is needed to help their communities flourish. ‘Render unto Caesar what it Caesar’s’ indeed…
      To consider in more depth the qualities of love, lets look at the description given by Paul in 1 Corinthians. He distinguishes love both by what it is, and what it is not. We’ll break it down… (Thanks to http://jacobisrael.com for inspiring the format of this – please check out his brilliant website)
      1) Love is patient…
      When you are patient you able to accept delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious. You are peaceful, despite outside circumstances. The external world is in constant flux, and patient people realise this and instead opt to find their peace in exercising self-control. People who are patient are in control of their emotions instead of their circumstances. Those who are impatient (like me!) always suffer. As you are never truly in control of your situation, however much you may want to be, you never find peace. You can’t enjoy life, because you are always worrying and erroneously trying to change the external world through external, worldly means – the most extreme manifestation of this is violence. Violence is usually what happens when a person feels so frustrated at the lack of control they have over themselves, that they lash out in an attempt to control another person. Jesus never endorsed violence – he was a pacifist who taught that you should resist evil with good. He condemned Peter’s violence towards the roman solider who came to lead Jesus to death. What did Peter’s violence achieve? He cut off the soldiers ear (how poignant) – symbolically limiting the soldier’s ability to hear Christ’s message. When we are aggressive, we lose people’s ears – love is what makes people listen to us, and it took Christ’s love to heal the roman soldiers ear, and thus his ability to hear the gospel (which itself preaches love).

      2) Love is kind

      ‘Kindness is just love with its work boots on.’ – Shelley Darlingson (Anna Faris) The House Bunny.

      A closed cup can never be filled, even when it is directly under the tap, but an open cup will overflow. Kindness is this overflowing. People who have truly made peace with themselves and love themselves are kind – because their inner voice is tolerant, they are tolerant of others, because they are in tune with their own feelings, they are in tune with other people’s. Because they realise their own need for mercy, they are merciful. Kind people have a level of emotional intelligence which makes them tolerant of others – like a mother who understands that babies and children need to make lots of mistakes in order to learn. Kind people are grateful and know they have everything they need. They give freely without expecting anything back not because they are BEING good, but because they ARE good. True kindness is love in action – it is magnanimous and unconditional. Kindness is not only a means to an end (love), but it also an end itself.

      3) Love does not envy…

      Jealousy is focusing more on what you don’t have than what you do have. It is a pessimistic spirit, which finds its roots in selfishness. When we dwell on what we don’t have, the result is unhappiness, and that unhappiness motivates us to use our energy to try and acquire more for ourselves. This is a trap, because jealousy is a bottomless pit which can never be filled. Envy makes us ignorant to what we have, and so many of us lament that we ‘don’t know what we’ve got, till it’s gone’. Jealousy focuses us on ourselves, and prevents us from living in the present. Conversely, gratitude allows us to be fully present in our lives NOW, and experience it joyfully. We all know the happiest people are not necessarily the richest, most famous, or best looking – the happiest are usually those with the best attitude, and gratitude is central to this.
      5) Love does not boast…

      Boasting is what happens when we base our self-esteem on what others think of us. We want others to like us and validate our existence, because we do not feel confident in ourselves. We are blown about by the changing winds of opinion, and live unhappy lives because we have become reliant to others to give us the love that we owe themselves. Boasting is what happens when we are ignorant our of own intrinsic value, and when we live in insecurity and fear. A person who boasts is addicted to the drug of approval. When people try to impress others, they become enslaved to social expectations – hence, a person might spend their life working a job they detest just so that they can ‘keep up with the Joneses’. Those who turn themselves inside out trying to please other peoples idea of how they should be, invariably start expecting the same of others – hence, the need for approval turns quickly into judgement. The person who can love others without needing their approval is not a slave, but has instead been ‘set free’ by the truth.

      6) Love is not proud…

      Pride is another ‘sin’ (mistake) which, like all sins, results from selfishness. Pride thinks only of itself, what it is due, and is willing to sacrifice harmony with others to ensure it gets its own way. Pride is also ignorant, because in order to learn, we have to be humble and accept that we do not know it all already. A humble mind is an open mind, a proud mind is a closed mind. Pride has no interest in equality, but instead believes itself superior and entitled to more than others. Pride robs us of all the things which make life magical – it robs us of opportunities to learn because it makes us think we know it all already, it robs us of relationships with others because it makes us easily offended and inflexible to the compromise that relationships require, and it robs us of peace of mind, because we go through life in a state of angry, righteous indignation, sensitive to even the subtlest perceived slight. To be proud is a serious error in judgement, which taken to the extreme, results in a very lonely, frustrating, anger-filled life. This strong desire to ‘save face’ is actually the very thing which makes us look most foolish. Humility is understanding that we are no better than those around us. Humility would sacrifice its image to save a relationship. Because humility knows it is not better than anyone else, it is tolerant of others.

      7) Love does not dishonor others,

      When we dishonour others, we are really hurting ourselves. The desire to criticise other people usually comes from a highly self-critical inner voice. Because we do not allow ourselves to make mistakes, we become highly intolerant of mistakes in other people. Because we really think very little of ourselves, we think poorly of others. Fear produces a critical spirit – people who are critical are usually terrified of making a mistake themselves. People who are judgemental of other people usually hold themselves to a ridiculously high standard. But love can not co-exist with fear – indeed; ‘perfect love casts out fear’.

      8) Love is not self-seeking
      Love is an entirely generative force, hence God, the supreme creative force of the universe, IS love. Without love, there is no life. All living systems rely on co-operation and sharing – working in harmony and ‘passing forward’ from one unit to another. An ecosystem requires energy to be passed on from one organism to another, the body requires that proteins, amino acids, sugars, and oxygen are passed from cell to cell, pumping blood from organ to organ, each organ only taking what it needs to function and giving life to the whole body. Living systems, when they are healthy, are very efficient and economical. No-one takes more than they need, and nothing is wasted. Selfishness is parasitic, and what it does is create a blockage – as the ‘selfish’ component hoards what it should pass on, it cuts off circulation, and starves the other components it ironically needs for its own survival. Consider cancer: most of the time, the our cells work together harmoniously, each contributing to the greater good. Cancer cells, however, prosper at the expense of all the other cells in the body – as they divide and colonise the body, they seal their own fate by eventually killing the host. Think about this next time you are in the car – traffic flows much better when people selflessly let each other in. It’s contagious too – when someone lets you in, you are much more likely to ‘pass it forward’ and let someone else in. To be self-seeking is to ultimately destroy yourself, hence ‘whoever wants to save their life will lose it’ (Matt 16:25). So you see, selfishness is fundamentally ANTI-LIFE. Selflessness – the willingness to use your energy for someone or something else’s benefit – is the very principle on which all life is founded. Hence love is fundamentally selfless.

      9) Love is not easily angered
      Anger is a condition which often finds its source in pride. To be easily angered is also to put too much stock into what others think, and it also equates to a stressful life. We really have no control over the world around us, so the correct way of living is to exercise self-control – this is what Jesus taught. To be easily angered is usually the result of the feeling of a loss of control, but desire to control situations and people outside ourselves is erroneous, and will only lead to frustration.

      10) keeps no record of wrongs.

      None of us should do this – we are all guilty of doing things wrong on a daily basis, and as we would hope for tolerance and acceptance to our own occasionally crappy behaviour, we must model tolerance towards others. For ‘by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.’ (Matthew 7:2)

      11) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

      There can be no love without truth, because truth always leads us to love. Truth is instructive – truth gives us insight into one-another, and insight and understanding precede love. Truth directs itself towards love, and love directs itself toward truth. Love rejoices when truth is spoken, because truth always draws us back to love. Truth informs love. When you understand why a person behaves in the way they do, it is much easier to love them. However, if a person’s behaviour is self destructive, it is not always in their best interest to tell them what they want to hear – love always considers the best interest of the other person, and sometimes this means telling them the truth is painful. When we are coming from a place of love, we will find a way to communicate painful truths without doing harm to the other person. The difference between criticism and loving feedback, is loving feedback seeks the welfare of the other – to lift them up and improve their life, whereas criticism seeks to put the other person down and exert power over them. Though in my experience, the most painful kind of truth is that which you discover about yourself…

      9) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

      Think of a garden. Love is like a perfect gardener –everything blooms in its presence. Everything this gardener touches is nourished, filled with life, and grows to it’s full potential to be uniquely itself – the daisies are daisies, the roses are roses, the grass is grass. The perfect gardener not only respects, but embraces the rich diversity of life – he knows all the plants intimately, and anticipates the varying conditions they will need to thrive. Some need sunny spots, some need shade, some need lots of water, some need very little. The perfect gardener knows which plants need pruning, and which plants need to be left alone. He knows which plants will flourish together, and which will suffocate one another, and places them accordingly. The gardener is concerned primarily with things GROWING not just as a single unit, but as a WHOLE beautiful garden. The world is the garden, we are the plants, and the Gardener is love, which is God. And without his light, we would all surely die…

  2. Julia Grimer says: Reply

    I can’t fault this…I agree with every word you say. Has made me reflect to on the ways I don’t live up to this….What you have written is very beautiful. A lot to meditate on.

    1. suzi_admin says: Reply

      Thankyou so much for the kind words Julia – I consider it a great honour to inspire reflection. I reflect on these things daily myself, and I speak from the position of one who has made every mistake in the book. I am learning about love myself – partially through the experience of suffering having lived out non-love. It was necessary for me to first experience many of the things love is not in order to begin to discover what it is – this meant I naturally moved towards love of my own free will, with no coercion required. I am very flawed, but knowledge at least makes this conscious – this is the first step to transformation. Growth is a slow process – it takes a long time and God is infinitely patient with his children. You need to be gentle with yourself as you would a little child. It’s okay to make mistakes because mistakes are what help us learn. When a scientist makes a groundbreaking discovery, it is usually only after years of trial and error. Jesus told us not to judge, because he understood that people actually need to make mistakes in order to grow and move towards love. God is the perfect model of love – he lets us be free and grow in our own way. He not only respects, but actively encourages our uniqueness – one need only consider the universe to see that life is diverse and is meant to be. The Hebrew word for ‘Life’ (chayim) is written in plural, implying that life cannot be lived alone. The two Hebrew ‘Yods’ found in this word mean unity in plurality. Life, therefore, implies both relationships, and diversity. It implies that the different parts remain uniquely themselves, but unified in mutual co-operation with one another. Be yourself. Know that you are loved unconditionally – this means no matter what you do, God loves you. We are warned about sin not because sin makes God stop loving us, but because sin hurts us. There are two paths to learning – observation, or experience. Observation is less painful, so we are encouraged to open our eyes and observe to avoid the painful lessons of experience. Learning by experience is learning ‘the hard way’. Those who shut their eyes to reality (love) separate themselves from love, and will naturally encounter problems as a result of God’s law of perfect justice; known in the east as Karma, or in Christian terms as the law of reaping and sowing. Because karma, or ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ is an impersonal law like gravity, it requires any debts be paid back in full. This is how we totally reconcile the Old Testament God with the New Testament God – Karma is completely biblical, and the bible is full of references to it:

      Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
      Galatians 6:7

      His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends.
      Psalm 7:16

      A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself.
      Proverbs 11:17

      He will render to each one according to his works
      Romans 2:6

      Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword
      Matthew 26:52

      I believe what Christ did is paid off the karmic debt for humanity (truly an act of love) and showed us the way to stop incurring Karmic debt, by embracing our suffering, and living a life of love. We know that all living systems operate on a principle of circulation – the same principle also works with evil. Those who are abused as children are more likely to go on to be abusive themselves, those who live in families where addictions are prevalent are more likely to become addicted – this is what is meant by ‘the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons’ – it is not a curse, rather, it is a statement of the natural consequences incurred by negative actions and thoughts. This is how the sin of one man was able to result in the fall of all humanity – because we are truly all connected, and like a drop of water in a pool, our actions ripple outwards, effecting the entire world – whether we realise it or not. When Jesus told us to meet evil with good, he was actually teaching us how to stop evil in it’s tracks – by bravely taking the impact into ourselves, and not passing the evil forward, we literally cut off its circulation. We become chain-breakers. Like white blood cells in the body, we suffocate the evil with good. We fight the infection spreading through the body of Christ by selflessly taking it and transforming it into good.

      He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough. Matthew 13:33

      We can either spread the infection, or we can work as part of the immune system. In order for the immune system to grow strong, it needs to be challenged. In order for our muscles to grow strong, they need to encounter resistance. So evil, or this resistance, is actually being used by God to strengthen us spiritually. This is why we are supposed to accept our suffering with good cheer – because it is an opportunity for us to move up.

      More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

      Romans 5:3-5

      Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
      James 1:2-4

      For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
      Hebrews 12:11

      Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
      Luke 14:27

      For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
      Philippians 1:29

      Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
      1 Peter 4:12-13

      In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
      1 Peter 1:6-7

      We are all being tested by fire, and it is though suffering that Christ is revealed in each one of us. Suffering makes us compassionate, being willing to take it on for the love of others makes us brave. When we absorb the hit of evil, without passing it forward, we are actually protecting countless people from feeling it’s effects. This is love. Not being good because we fear hell, but enduring hell because we love. In this way, we can see that even the smallest actions are heroic, and life is suffused with meaning and purpose. Don’t ever lose hope – Christ’s victory is inevitable. Love wins. x

  3. Frank says: Reply

    I must admit that I agree with the position of the pre-reformation church that kept the Bible in Latin.

    I think that private interpretation is dangerous and leads to all kinds of egregious errors culminating in abominations such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Salvation comes about through the Church (the One, Holy, Catholic and Roman) outside which there is no salvation.

    Peter has the keys of the kingdom and in spite of the deplorable example of the present holder of the keys and the poor performance of his predecessors since V2
    the Church and its sacraments are the only hope for you me and the rest of mankind.

    Though I do read a chapter of the Gospels daily I do it out of an act of worship like the rosary rather than as a source of inspiration. If I want inspiration I go to the lives of the Saints – and since I am a scientist, the likes of the saints who performed extraordinary miracles, the same kind of miracles as Our Lord performed all those years ago.

    Love and kisses xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Frank
    [by name and by nature 😉 ]

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