It occurs to me, that beyond the question of religion and proving or living its truth, that there is one common trait… a common aspect that is recognized across the board pretty much everywhere you look. Something included across the majority of religious versions, and that common aspect is simply love. There is common grounds to work from, yet I feel that for so many.. there continues to be this desire to keep people separate with labels, and I can’t help but feel that is people working far more out of fear, than out of enlightened viewpoints.
Brought up Christian, I do consider myself as a believer in God, though as I grow older I begin to struggle. The struggle is not so much that I don’t believe there is an outer essence and energy, that pulls at and inspires man to care for each other, and encourages them to seek enlightenment.. Because I definitely believe there is. What I struggle with is the knowledge that perception is not equal across the board, and so every individuals understanding differs. I find myself losing the desire to be “labeled” at all when I know that profound claiming of any label does very little as far as actually helping others to understand me, or what I believe.
All it really does is categorize you in someone else’s mind, and place you in a “box” with all the imagined ideas that person’s past experience has given them about other people who had also claimed that label. Some thoughts may be similar, but honestly some can prove to be very different, even adverse…. to expressing who you are and what you believe.
To be quite plain, I know of those labeled as Christians in present day as well as those in the past, that I sincerely have no desire for them to be in any way, shape or form.. be representations of my beliefs. To be positively honest, those trouble-some individuals tend to be quite loud and strive to make their version of this “label” quite known, and often use “God’s Name” as an excuse to further their own selfish goals.
It was a little disconcerting when I first made that realization. Me not wanting to shout from the rooftops, or to constantly push people to conform to what my vision saw as being the “right” religion to follow… did that mean I wasn’t a “true” Christian? There are many convinced that is what it means, and at that point if their view is “true” than I’m not sure I want their version of that label.. and to come to that conclusion can be a little scary.
The problem I have comes from common sense and logical thinking. Using what I understand of my own nature as a person. I understand that to me, consistently observed loving behavior always impressed and inspired me far more than someone preaching fire and brimstone and using scare tactics or spouting “pity” for my soul and/or begging me to conform to their vision.
Scaring people into submission, trying to impose superiority by offering them your “pity”, or pressuring them to just follow the mold and not question…. to not attempt to explore and figure out a personal relationship with God for themselves, to me all just seems plain disrespectful. To promote those things doesn’t inspire growth, or enlightenment on an individual level. I have a hard time believing that any worthy “God” would use those tactics, or want to encourage them.
Years ago I remember actually sitting in a church service, searching for and picking out small “pearls” of wisdom from a sermon. I remember in the same service having my heart sing over discovering some simple truth that was clarified for me, by a statement. Then the next point wouldn’t feel quite as “real” and seemed to be very “man-made” and had visible motives behind them, and I’d just disregard them. Not out of any ill-will, not because I didn’t respect the speaker, but merely because of what I understood of my own relationship with God, that it didn’t make sense to “pearls” that had been accepted earlier… most commonly any that went against the thought relayed in Mark 12:31… the thought that we should strive ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
In my mind and heart, there are really two points that inspire “God-like” living.
#1 Love … the true unconditional and selfless version is what we should strive to rise to encourage in ourselves and others.
#2 Finding enlightenment and understanding should be a goal. Following blindly with no attempt to explore or gain personal maturity or growth is insincere and fake. Believing what others believe simply because it is the path of least resistance, isn’t expressing faith, its pretending.
Do I believe in God… yes.
Do I necessarily take parables offered in the bible literally, do I never wear “mixed cloth” or never plant two different kinds of seeds next to each other in my garden?…. No because I kind of realize that the bible was written in another time and place.. and some of the metaphors used, don’t translate the same meanings over today that they once had. Am I going to worry about these details… no… because the devil is in the details really.
I don’t need a “label” attached to what I’ve come to know through my own exploration of faith. The God I chose is the one I can relate to… the one that values and promotes selfless love, and encourages enlightenment in his followers. It doesn’t matter what others call him, nor does it matter what label they want to give me.
It matters instead how consistent I am in how I choose to behave, how I treat others, and how I strive to to inspire others to be loving towards each other. That isn’t even a matter of religion really… its a matter of personal character.