When it’s just me in my car, there are two things you can be certain of, one, there will almost always be music playing, and two, I will be singing along with it! Driving home after getting my morning tea on Good Friday, April 6, 2012, the song “Tuesday Morning” by Melissa Etheridge came on my shuffle. I was singing with passion, feeling the words reaching out from my heart, and then a great realization came to me, “This song is so fitting for Good Friday.”
“Tuesday Morning” is about the heroism of the passengers who took over flight 93 which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania killing all aboard. But it focuses on one man named Mark Bingham, a gay man, who helped retake the plane and prevented the potential deaths of hundreds of people in Washington DC. No matter what rights he had been denied simply because he was gay, on that flight, on that day, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was doing what was right in his heart. Saving the lives of other people regardless of race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and all four people gave their lives for others. And in the process they showed us what it means to love our neighbors, and even our enemies. Those four heroes were with Christ that day, even if they didn’t believe in the modern day version of Christ, inside Christ was there. Some might argue it’s not enough, you must believe in Christ, but it is enough to just be Christ-like, because to be Christ-like is to know God inside.
On Good Friday, this is the lesson Jesus Christ taught. On this day a man knew God within and listened. He laid down his life for a greater good. He allowed his human life to be taken, abused, and hung up on a cross so many could watch his suffering. And he did suffer. Yet, in his suffering he called out to God, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” He didn’t give commandments that he himself didn’t practice. His “enemies” did the best they could to make a mockery of him, dividing up his belongings before his life had ended, and hanging a sign above his head “King of Jews”. They didn’t take him serious. He was just a rebel rouser. Some might say, he was a biblical Occupier. Misunderstood by those who weren’t ready to understand the deeper message he was teaching, but completely understood by those ready to do the work of change.
Jesus Christ is still on the cross. He is used as justification to support prejudice and intolerance against a diverse group of people. And what is striking about this fact is the one thing Jesus had, more than anything was tolerance for people, just not injustice. Turning over the tables in the temple was an act of civil disobedience against the money lenders who were taking advantage of people by charging high rates to trade in their money for temple money. And they were doing it in God’s house. He stood up for prostitutes, lepers, the poor and sick. He was led by what he knew inside, that God was with him. And God resided in the true temple, the temple of the Heart.
Christians are led to believe that the only way to God is to believe in Christ. To reach out our hands and pronounce Christ our savior. But if this were true, Peter would never have fallen in the water. Yes, Christ took him out of the water when he fell, but what were Christ’s words directly after, he said, “Why did you doubt?”
Here’s the whole account:
Mathew 14:25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Jesus never said, “Why did you doubt in me?” He said plainly, “Why did you doubt?” If Peter didn’t believe in the Christ, he wouldn’t have called to him. It wasn’t enough to believe in Jesus. Peter fell despite his belief, because Peter didn’t believe in himself. He didn’t believe in God within. He believed in God without, meaning the only way to God was to reach out to Jesus, and this is why Jesus is so important, even today. His actions showed us where to look for God, within. And yet, we still reach out begging for his hand to bring us in. How long will we continue to doubt where the true God lives? Jesus walked on water because he didn’t need to believe beyond God within. He knew himself. He knew God. This is the message.
When Jesus said, “I am the way.” He meant his actions. He taught a grand lesson we are still struggling to master some two thousand years later. Where does God reside? I suppose its tough for some people to fathom that God is within. And it may depend on what your definition of God is, but if I were to be Christ-like I’d have to say, “God is love,” inside me. This I am sure of. The two commandments Christ left are Love God and love your neighbor.
As he says:
John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
God is love. It is not all that God is but it is a whole piece of God within us. And to believe in Christ is to believe in God within us. Or to believe in God within is to believe in Christ, because God is not separate from His own love. He is His love. And God so loved the world he gave His own son. Yet, the story doesn’t stop there.
When we believe in God within our own selves, we are embracing the best of ourselves. The question should be, “Are we going to keep reliving the worst of ourselves?” Every year, Good Friday comes and many faithful Christians will go into a church and hear about the torture inflicted on Jesus Christ. And some might blame the Jews. Others, might blame themselves and believe they are not worthy of God’s grace but because of Christ they receive it. Still others might stretch it completely out of context and blame gays, blacks, Muslims, you name it. But most people hear the passion story and are moved to tears because they truly love Jesus. They believe. They have a personal relationship. And it’s beautiful. It is a relationship to be cherished. No one can take that away, nor should anyone try.
The question I have is this, we can keep reliving the worst of human nature year after year by reminding ourselves of the bodily abuse Jesus endured, or we can rise up with him off the cross and embrace the Spirit of Christ that is the best of human nature. The choice is ours. Ritual can be beautiful. Tradition is special, but how long do we keep going over the same violence? Didn’t he suffer enough? Take him off the cross and look at the deeper message of his ministry. He didn’t die. He is alive in God’s Love within. And when we practice his commandments, we resurrect Him in the Spirit of God’s Love. Christ is alive in love! And what we do in love, we do in Christ’s name, and in memory of Jesus’ actions here on earth.
This brings me back to the song “Tuesday Morning.” I would love to see Good Friday turn into something beyond just living out the passion story. It is good to remember and I am not suggesting we forget his suffering. I am suggesting we honor him by moving forward. I would love to see the greater message of Christ on a Cross shine on, spotlighting all those people who gave there lives’ for the greater good of humanity to be remembered a long side Christ, because there they stand.
And Jesus would never reject anyone because of their sexual orientation. His question would be, “Did you love?” And knowing their answer, yes, in God’s love they remain. Christ helped the spiritual blind to see. And he helped those who could see, see they are still blind. We are not perfect, but it is within our imperfect we triumph because what we have is the ability to live this life in love. And when we discover the temple within, we have a never ending supply of love to bring us up out of the water. We don’t need to hold on to Jesus in order to believe we can create miracles; we just need to believe we, too, have God within. To know Christ is to know his secret, he was showing us the way. Yes, he is the way, but through action. And this is why I call Jesus Christ my friend.
Jesus Christ is my friend because when I came out as a lesbian at the age of 19, he showed me love is never wrong. And it was through practicing unconditional love for those who didn’t understand my intimate relationship with another woman that ultimately I grew in God’s love. Even when the worldly church tried to show me otherwise, Christ showed me that I am loved because of my ability to love. He showed me God within, and I have not stopped looking inward to hear the voice of truth since that day. I follow the love in my heart, and it is this love that leads the way. I am blessed to have a friend who was willing to lay down his life for me in order to show me what true love and sacrifice is all about, but I love him too much to keep him up on that cross year after year. He only needs to be resurrected in the Love of God. And that is eternal.
It’s hard work to be Christ-like. And it might be easier to just say, “I believe” and let belief do all the work, but it’s the knowing within that allows us the strength to work upon our better nature. Yes, hard decisions have to be made for the greater good, and in these moments love is needed more than ever. Love to make the right choice. Love to heal the wounds. Love to carry on. But in the end, it is always love that pulls us out of the stormy waters.
And like Jesus, it is love that that allows us the ability to lay down our lives for others even in the face of suffering. And it doesn’t mean we don’t doubt or that we must die. It means we give our lives to the service of others. It means we follow our hearts because we know the Spirit of Humanity is unconditional love. To live and die for our better nature, to be the capstone the builders reject because we take a stand for the greater good, this is what it means to be in love. It means we know where our strength resides, and that strength is in the love we share with God, with Christ, and with each other.
Like Christ, we can create miracles. All we have to do is look within and believe beyond the voice of doubt. We can make the difference if we reach out in unconditional service of others. And when we do, we learn a valuable lesson; we learn we are all One if we believe in the unfailing love that exists within. Within us is a temple of love erected to serve as a monument of hope and truth. Just believe and the greatest miracle of all will be the one where you become like Christ and help to heal the world for each other, for all life. Believe within.