Bully For Christ

By: Brian Robertson

"How are we to be exclusive about an all-inclusive, self-denying love? For a believer to urge the exclusive claims of Christ in a bullying, offensive and triumphalist manner is to deny the very Spirit of the Christ one is proclaiming. Christ bullies no one. The Cross coerces no one.... The two great characteristics of the desert believer are joy and gratitude. These are the marks of the converted life."

- Alan Jones


Why Christianity? Why not Hinduism or Buddhism? The answer cannot be "Because the Scripture says so," because each religion has some particular way of saying it has merit and should (or could) be one's particular spiritual path of choice.

Part of it lies in the fact that we have been born and raised in a culture that is permeated with the images of Christianity. They are all around us and we start with a certain familiarity. This is positive in that we are already swimming in the waters that are somewhat familiar to us, culturally and philosophically. Then again, constantly, we are asked to look at our faith and to make it a living faith, to prune it here, add to it there, as one would a tree -- say the Tree of Life. We are also running the risk of, at an early age, perhaps having been forced to attend a Church when we had no real clue what was going on or having had an early encounter with Christianity that left a bad taste in our mouths. So, a person who might be spiritually inquisitive then turns Eastward for sustenance precisely because what he or she sees there is exciting and different and free of all that baggage.

Yet the baggage is with us and not with God. It's ours. In my own case, I moved from the western to the eastern and then back again. My own path follows the one I hinted at above. I'd found a new approach to life and to my identity with the Supreme. What then began to intrigue me, after many years, was how Jesus really did fit into the world of spirituality. I was not interested in what second hand images I might be carrying from youth or what others said that only seemed to limit God's love to a particular few, so that what an finite creature did in these 70 years (if one is fortunate) determine their infinite fate.

The mystic in Christianity is called upon to set aside those concepts and to dive courageously firsthand into the depths of experience without the floatation devices of belief. The treasure that awaits when one goes forward, trusting, is astonishing. For myself, I found that all I expected or hoped to find in other approaches was, at least for me, available within the Christian tradition.

Do I have differences with certain practices and attitudes within Christianity? I would hope so, given their narrow mindedness and tendency to try and make God as small and petty as we ourselves can be. Do I feel somehow superior for being a Christian? Certainly not, as Alan Jones states so well above.

The joy and gratitude of the Christian mystic come from two simple facts. The first is that finding oneself immersed in Divine Love is, for lack of a better word, joy. The gratitude comes not from just receiving such a gift, but rather because one knows that the more one knows of God, the less one can figure out, "Why me?"

Jones' quote reflects another important fact -- those who call themselves Christians and then proceed to bully or threaten are not only wrong, they are not Christians in the sense that they are not following any attitude, teaching or characteristic of Jesus' teachings and person. If, as some people hold, anyone who does not become a Christian is damned to hell, then aren't those people who practice hatred and bullying tactics much to blame for someone not wanting to investigate becoming a Christian? Won't these people whose self-righteousness is a wall feel, at least, some of the heat?

I'm speaking metaphorically about hell, of course, because I do not pretend to think that God speaks only to Christians, all others be damned. To think that's how God operates is a kind of spiritual racism in which people who are fearful and insecure make themselves feel better by imagining they are somehow (in any way) better than somebody else.

What I have come to know of God is that we're talking both spirit and love, and the Spirit penetrates all and the Love is all inclusive. The Samaritan who came to the aid of the injured person in Jesus' parable was in no shape or form an "insider" or "believer." We have no sense of the shock Jesus' story would have had on listeners of his time, when the Samaritan was an outsider. But yet Jesus' story holds this outsider up as a living example of the Kingdom of God.

Was there ever a more clear example of the Love of God than in the life, mission and event of Jesus? For me, no. But let us assume, as I have said elsewhere, that we believe God's love is such that all can partake of the joy of drawing near to that Supreme Identity. If it turns out that we were wrong, what is our defense? We can say we erred on the side of assuming a loving God who takes each person into account, who knows all hearts and intentions. And if God's nature as revealed to us by Jesus is any indication, we'll be perfectly correct.

If, on the other hand, you are a person who believes strongly in the singular event of Jesus as something another should know of and should hear, then by all means witness, but not with force and threats and self-righteousness. Witness with your life -- by how you serve others, how you treat others as you would be treated, how much you dare to love. To be a bully is not to be a Jesus-based Christian. It is to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.