I’m not actually Christian,
but seeing as it’s Dec 25th
I thought I’d write something about Jesus.
It makes sense as he was born in the spring
and we’re having unseasonably
warm temperatures right now.
Very often when folks complain about
religious people they criticize the fact that
they are usually cherry picking
from their religious books.
Using the Bible to Justify acts of Hatred and Violence
It is not an entirely unreasonable criticism
for if we look around the world we can see
so many examples of how people use
their religions to justify acts of
hatred, division and violence.
It seems hardly any religion is free from this taint.
Positive Cherry Picking
And yet I actually believe that cherry picking
is the only intelligent way to be religious.
Every religious book has so many
wildly contradictory ideas,
that it is pretty much impossible for us
to take everything at face value.
Then we have to sort through
what parts are stories, parables and direct teachings.
The problem with selecting specific parts of
a religious book to follow is when we use it
to justify judgmental, negative or
angry thoughts, words and deeds.
Use the Book to Become a Better Person
It seems to make much more sense to me
to pick out the parts of your book that
cause you to become a better person.
The parts that guide you towards
being more loving and kind.
In that spirit I will share with you
a couple of the things Jesus said
according to the Bible
that have struck a chord with me
and helped me in my life.
Make the Teachings Your Own
I am intentionally not quoting directly
from the book because
that is part of the point I am making.
That we should take the positive teachings
and make them our own.
Trust the Divine
The first one goes something like this:
Look at the lilies of the field,
they neither labour nor spin
and yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed as one of these.
He goes on to say that if the divine shall
take care of a flower then surely
you shall also be taken care of.
This is where he also says:
Take no thought for the ‘morrow,
what you shall eat or what you shall wear.
In Times Of Difficulty I Relax And Trust
All of this speaks to me because it is saying
that if I rely upon the Divine Spirit,
the source of all existence
then I can relax and trust
that I will be taken care of.
There are many times in my life when
I get worried or afraid that things
aren’t going to work out for me
or I’m going to end up in some form of poverty,
whether material, mental, emotional or spiritual.
Then I think of this line,
I hold it close to me and I breathe.
I am able to find some peace
in the midst of the fear.
Seeking Deeper Levels of Love
Another line that I love is when
he tells us to love our enemies.
He says that if somebody slaps you
on one cheek, offer them the other.
There are many variations of this idea
that he shares with us.
They all centre around offering love
no matter what is happening to you.
The Opposite of Self-Defence?
It may seem funny for a
martial arts/self-defense teacher
to love this line so much!
It pushes me.
It challenges me.
It forces me to look inside for
deeper and deeper levels of love.
Fighting the Enemy Within
When I am tempted to be angry,
to blame or to hate,
I think of this idea.
I grit my teeth and force myself
to look beneath the surface of what is happening.
Both beneath my surface
and the other person’s surface.
I know that only pain makes us
behave in unloving ways towards each other.
The times I am able to access the love in my heart
when that is the last thing I want to do
I find miraculous transformation appears.
I Am A Work In Progress
Of course I am not always successful in this.
Over the years I have probably
been unsuccessful more often than successful.
But I don’t give up.
I keep pressing on.
And as time has progressed
I have become somewhat better at this skill.
At least I can say very clearly that
27 year old Vivek was very different
than 47 year old Vivek is.
This is what I have been thinking about today
as I have being spending Christmas with my family.
The laughter and joy that we all experience
in each other’s company is so precious to me.
Using the ancient teachings to increase joy
rather than to increase suffering does them honour.
This Is The Kind Of Cherry Picking That Makes Sense To Me
I am NOT a Christian and yet
I use this book to become a better person,
to become more authentic and more loving.
I do not use it to justify any kind
of prejudice or violence.