By: Brian Robertson

"Well, I think the essence of the Gospels is that there was an enormous experience of God's presence in human history; and people were called into that experience, and in that experience they found life; they found love; they found a new way to be. And they found the barriers that human beings erect against other human beings to be dissipated or broken down.

"If you read the Jesus story carefully, the power that is present in his life winds up destroying the barrier that separated the Jew from the gentile. It destroyed the barrier that separated the Jew from the Samaritan. It destroyed the barrier that separated males from females. It destroyed the barrier that separated unclean people, ritualistically unclean people from clean people. Jesus goes into all of those areas.

"One of the earliest phrases in the Christian tradition is Paul saying in Galatians that "now in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there's neither male nor female". That was an incredible revolution. I believe that is what the God experience does for us.

"It calls us beyond our limits into the fullness of life - into a capacity to love people we are not taught to love - and into an ability to be who we are."

- John Shelby Spong

John Shelby Spong Christian Mystics


I remember the times when I'd travel with my father to service station openings -- he worked for a large oil company and overseeing the new gas stations was part of his job. This was, of course, a time when one pulled into a station and people actually looked under hoods, checked tires, filled fluids and seemed happy to be doing it.

But I also remember being consciously aware of the little signs pointing around back to the "Colored" restrooms and to the "Colored" water fountains. For my children, it seems unbelievable that a person's color determined where they would drink or use the bathroom, where they would and wouldn't be seated for dinner. While we obviously have a long, long way to go in the area of brotherhood and sisterhood of all, I think about the struggles that took place to make those barriers begin to dissolve.

Christianity gets a really bad rap sometimes for atrocities committed in the name of Christ, but what of the basic message of Jesus' life that has translated into sincere and honest changes? The barriers some of us have seen in our times -- from the Berlin Wall to the struggle for equality of both the sexes and the races, from the tragedy of AIDS to the shame of the poor -- are condemned in the message of the life of Jesus.

In the moment in which God entered time, in which the Eternal flowed into the temporal, barriers exploded. Paul declares that in Christ there is no slave or free -- and this coming 1600 years before the War that attempted put an end to that division. Anyone who has a major problem with Paul's writings should find their Bible and read the only personal letter we have from Paul -- Philemon. In it, Paul presents one of the most skillfully constructed pieces of writing in the entire Bible as he writes Philemon regarding an escaped slave named Onesimus.

The "unclean" of Jesus' time were the lepers, the forerunners to the AIDS victims of today. These and the prostitutes, the mercenaries, the sinners -- the same cast of characters exist today -- were all invited to the great feast. The message was that salvation is universal, that those outside the "select" by their social standing are first in the kingdom. Recall for a moment the hatred and violence done to those who have tried to secure the rights for the outcasts of our society -- and focus that fear, anger and wrath onto just one person. Is there any doubt that Jesus was killed for breaking down these barriers? What threat could be worse for those with religious authority or political authority?

It is easy to get bogged down in quoting verses or deciding who might be "saved" and who is destined for hellfire, but this is not what we are called upon to do. We are called upon to help usher in, as co-heirs in Christ -- the very kingdom for which he lived, taught and died.

And the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus is clear -- the world as it was said NO to Jesus in a direct and terrible way. God, being Love and Spirit, raised Jesus as a way of saying YES in a mystical and utterly joyous way.

The message of Jesus' life and death deal less with some concept of a sinful Adam and more with God's New Covenant (read as our new and deeper understanding) that a life spent so close to the Source is a life everlasting, and that of God which is in each of us is the Light that moves us, as with Jesus, from the timebound to the Eternal.