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Friends Of Jesus


DaveS
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This is a personal theology that I have written out for myself as a progressive Christian Quaker universalist (and isn't that a mouthful?). I just thought I would share for any constructive feedback or to see if it speaks to anyone else.

 

We are the Friends of Jesus. "I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father" (John 15:14).

 

1. Friends of Jesus affirm that the central and sole essential teaching of Jesus is the Law of Love – Love of God and Love of neighbor. The Holy Spirit helps us live out the Way of the Cross - to die to our Old Selves (egos) to be born again as a new creation through Christ. God’s Law of Love is the ultimate fulfillment of Biblical law, including the Ten Commandments, as the Law of Love fulfills the intent of such lesser laws. (Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28, John 13:34 ).

 

2. Salvation cannot be earned but is a free gift through the Law of Love. God saves you because He loves you. Salvation is the product of developing a genuine love for other people and for God. We temporarily reject salvation if we choose not to love others like God loves us. Jesus clearly taught that it is our actions which are important and not what one claims to believe. Jesus taught us how to live, not what to believe. He did not exclude people because of their beliefs. (Matthew chaps. 5-7, Luke 6:17-49, Matthew 25:35-40, Luke 10:25-37).

 

3. Friends of Jesus affirm that every person is loved and guided by God through the Inward Light or Holy Spirit which we can learn to hear and allow it to guide us both in our daily lives."When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). Friends of Jesus gather to wait expectantly in the silence to come into the presence of the Divine and to be guided by the still, small voice by which God speaks to us from within. During the silence anyone—child, woman, or man—may feel moved to offer a simple spoken message (vocal ministry) that is inspired by this holy encounter. If we are sincerely open to the Divine Will, we will be guided by a Wisdom that is more compelling than our own more superficial thoughts and feelings. This can mean that we will find ourselves led in directions or receiving understandings that we may not have chosen just from personal preference.

 

4. Friends of Jesus define ourselves as a community of seekers. There is wisdom in all the world’s living faiths and salvation through the Way of Love is not limited to those in the Christian tradition. All religions have goodness in them and are guided by the same Inner Light, even if they have another label for it. Salvation is available for people of all religions who develop love for others rather than only oneself. Many Friends of Jesus find meaning and value in the teachings of many faiths and are thus also friends of Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad, and other holy teachers. Our meetings are open, welcoming, and inclusive of all in the spirit of love in order that we may share our truths with each other through the guidance of the Inner Light.

 

5. Friends of Jesus take the Bible seriously but not literally. The Word of God is Jesus and not the Bible itself. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Therefore, Friends of Jesus affirm the primacy of the Holy Spirit and the words of Jesus (the "Red Letters") as found in the New Testament as our sole authority rather than the teachings of the Old Testament or the writings of Paul. The rest of the Bible contains the history of the development of the church and its traditions and developed creeds as well as the cultural context from which they evolved filtered through the bias and opinions of the human authors.

 

6. As God is Love itself, Friends of Jesus do not believe in the doctrine of eternal damnation as God will continue to seek to ultimately reconcile all things to Himself (Colossians 1:20). In His love, we believe that God will continue to love those who die without salvation and seek to bring them to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

 

7. There are three steps to become a Friend of Jesus: First, to seriously confront his teaching. We are called to love God and love our neighbor. Second, to decide that Jesus was right-- this love of God and neighbor is the most important thing. Then, third, we have to decide that we will try to live that way -- with Jesus as our focus, our compass. This is what makes us Friends of Jesus -- the decision to follow him, to make him function as the Christ in our lives. Then we should acknowledge and declare this decision to follow Jesus.

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"It is my conviction that the root of all evil is the want of a living faith in a living God. It is a first-class human tragedy that peoples of the earth that claim to believe in the message of Jesus whom the describe as the Prince of Peace show little of that belief in actual practice." Mohandas Gandhi, 1936

I agree with the spirit of your post, Dave. It is the reduction of Jesus the teacher to Jesus the idol to be worshipped. This has turned Christianity into a cult following instead of a living faith based upon his teaching. Jesus as God is a human construction just like the Bible. If those who claim to be Christians followed the teachings of Jesus the teacher and mystic and leave out everything else, Christian hypocracy would be turned into Christian faith..

Edited by Quaker Way
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1. Friends of Jesus affirm that the central and sole essential teaching of Jesus is the Law of Love – Love of God and Love of neighbor.

 

You could have stopped right there, as far as I'm concerned.

 

I like your attempt to make Christianity more accepting of other faith journeys.

 

I just have one question: do you believe everything that Jesus taught as "truth?"

 

For example, Jesus taught that a man should only be the husband of one woman. He didn't allow (in his teaching as revealed in the Christian scriptures) for divorce.

 

Mark 10:2-12: And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to put her away." But Jesus said to them, "For your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder." And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

 

Do you allow, then, a woman to divorce from an abusive husband?

 

NORM

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well Norm, I don't think you're getting an answer,

 

I like the ideas put forth in the original post, for the most part. But to address your question Norm, even though it wasn't directed toward me, I personally do not take every word ascribed to Jesus in the bible as fact. I think the earliest Christians had it right though - radically inclusive, egalitarian and a belief in Jesus as Lord (as opposed to Ceasar being Lord). I don't think the earliest Christians believed in Jesus' divinity.

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I really like the OP as well. As far as adultery goes, that may come down to interpretation of scripture. For example, Jesus may be talking about divorcing for no good reason other than to marry someone else. He references the creation and how a man and woman are to become one, but it doesn't seem that a couple can be "one" if one of them is abusive. And can we really avoid adultery? Jesus went on to say that a man who looks at woman with lust commits adultery in his jeart. By that definition, I am guilty of adultery every day. I would never act on it (I just got married to a wonderful girl 10 days ago), but I must admit that when I see an attractive woman that it is not uncommon for me to have "impure" thoughts. I would guess that's true for the vast majority of people. It's just our nature.

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As far as adultery goes, that may come down to interpretation of scripture. For example, Jesus may be talking about divorcing for no good reason other than to marry someone else.

 

Ray, I don't find a great deal of ambiguity in the saying which is also attested n Mark and Luke. Whether Jesus actually said it is another question. The fellows of the Jesus Seminar were evenly divided on this question.

 

According to Mason and Robinson ("The Early Christian Reader"), in the first century, Jews were influenced by the Roman practice of monogamy and there was a debate among Pharisees about the appropriate conditions for divorce. Jesus may have been weighing in on this debate.

 

George

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Ray, I don't find a great deal of ambiguity in the saying which is also attested n Mark and Luke. Whether Jesus actually said it is another question. The fellows of the Jesus Seminar were evenly divided on this question.

 

According to Mason and Robinson ("The Early Christian Reader"), in the first century, Jews were influenced by the Roman practice of monogamy and there was a debate among Pharisees about the appropriate conditions for divorce. Jesus may have been weighing in on this debate.

 

George

 

I didn't realize there was some question about whether or not Jesus actually said. That's interesting.

 

FWIW, a few days ago I asked a former preacher about the quote. In his view, the sin would not be in divorcing, but rather in remarrying. By the standard I would think that Jesus wouldn't have a problem with divorce, assuming he made that quote.

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FWIW, a few days ago I asked a former preacher about the quote. In his view, the sin would not be in divorcing, but rather in remarrying. By the standard I would think that Jesus wouldn't have a problem with divorce, assuming he made that quote.

 

I am not sure that Jesus would have no problem with divorce, but I think that is right (assuming he actually said it), the 'serious violation' would be in remarriage.

 

George

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Look, let's suppose that God set for God's self the goal of the salvation of the world. I think he has the horsepower to get the job done and that neither our little peccadilloes nor our little charitable acts can inflict on God the duty to behave in accordance with our actions rather than in accordance with His will. What we call a "good" life - the life described in chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew's Gospel - would better be referred to as a "happy" life, that is, a life which maximizes our own capacity for joy and minimizes our negative impact on others. It makes us happy. It does not make us immortal. All that is up to God and we already know that he wants us with Him. We're his kids, after all. Does Jesus disapprove of divorce generally or just divorce where the woman has not done naughty things? Ask Jesus, but don't get too sanctimonious about it because we are going to meet a bunch of divorced people in Heaven, whatever that is, and everyone we meet there will be a so-called sinner. Jesus' disapproval of divorce was culture-specific in that during His lifetime divorce was cruel and destructive to women. That's the radical bit. A first century Jew expressing genuine concern for women's rights. I imagine He was giving the answer "don't be cruel" to the question "can a man give his wife a bill of divorce?".

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  • 4 weeks later...

Sorry, I've been away from the board for a couple of months. To your question about divorce from an abusive husband, my answer is - OF COURSE! The Bible is a human creation for one and may not accurately reflect what Jesus taught. Also, if something taught even by Jesus is not consistent with the Law of Love, then it must be rejected.

 

Friends of Jesus affirm that the central and sole essential teaching of Jesus is the Law of Love – Love of God and Love of neighbor.

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I find it impossible to believe that Jesus would prefer a person stay with an abusive partner. I just don't see it.

 

As for the issue of remarrying, do you think the argument would be about sexual purity? Women (and men? I'm not sure about that) were expected to be virgins when they married - so would it be some sort of sexual no-no to remarry, as she wouldn't be a virgin?

 

Or is to do with the idea of being married for always - so to marry someone else, even after a divorce, is spiritual adultery?

 

Hm.

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Someone once said (it may have been Marcus Borg or Thomas Cahill, I forget) that Jesus replaced the laws of purity with the laws of compassion. The problem of parsing scripture is a tough one because it has accrued so many layers over so many years. I think it's legitimate to struggle with what Jesus did or didn't actually say. I sense that many people bring their own ideology to scripture and use that as the lens through which to organize it. Maybe if we used the (likely) teachings and example of Jesus as that lens, we'd have a better picture. As to the question of divorce: Jesus' answer was to the Sadduccees and was probably meant to evoke humility on their part instead of self-righteousness.

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OK - based upon some of the feedback, I reedited this little essay to make it even clearer.

 

 

 

This is my own personal theology that I have written out for myself. I just thought I would share for any constructive feedback or to see if it speaks to anyone else.

 

I am a Friend of Jesus. "I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father" (John 15:14).

 

1. A Friend of Jesus affirms that the central and sole essential teaching of Jesus is the Law of Love – Love of God and Love of neighbor. The Holy Spirit helps us live out the Way of the Cross - to die to our Old Selves (egos) to be born again as a new creation through Christ. God’s Law of Love is the ultimate fulfillment of Biblical law, including the Ten Commandments, as the Law of Love fulfills the intent of such lesser laws. (Matthew 22:35-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28, John 13:34).

 

2. Salvation cannot be earned but is a free gift through the Law of Love. God saves you because He loves you. Salvation is the product of developing a genuine love for other people and for God. We temporarily reject salvation if we choose not to love others like God loves us. Jesus clearly taught that it is our actions which are important and not what one claims to believe. Jesus taught us how to live, not what to believe. He did not exclude people because of their beliefs. (Matthew chaps. 5-7, Luke 6:17-49, Matthew 25:35-40, Luke 10:25-37).

 

3. A Friend of Jesus affirms the primacy of the current guidance of the Holy Spirit as the most important spiritual guide to our lives, rather than limiting it to the Bible. The Word of God is Jesus and not the Bible itself. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Bible contains the history of the development of the church and its traditions and developed creeds as well as the cultural context from which they evolved filtered through the bias and opinions of the human authors. Therefore, Friends of Jesus read the Bible as a historical human response to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the past and as a secondary source of guidance. Even in the Bible, Jesus told us to rely on the inspiration of the Spirit rather than books written and compiled by fallible human beings. "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13).

 

4. A Friend of Jesus affirms that every person is loved and continue to be guided by God through the Inward Light or Holy Spirit which we can learn to hear and allow it to guide us both in our daily lives. We can know the guidance is true if it does not conflict with the Law of Love. If we are sincerely open to the Divine Will, we will be guided by a Wisdom that is more compelling than our own more superficial thoughts and feelings. This can mean that we will find ourselves led in directions or receiving understandings that we may not have chosen just from personal preference.

 

5. As a Friend of Jesus, I define myself as a seeker. It is readily apparent that there is wisdom in all the world’s living faiths and salvation through the Way of Love is not limited to those in the Christian tradition. All religions have goodness in them and are guided by the same Spirit, even if they have another label for it. Salvation is available for people of all religions who develop love for others rather than only oneself. A Friend of Jesus should find meaning and value in the teachings of many faiths and should also be a friend of Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad, and other holy teachers.

 

6. As God is Love itself and as a Friend of Jesus, I do not believe in the doctrine of eternal damnation as God will continue to seek to ultimately reconcile all things to Himself (Colossians 1:20). In His love, I believe that God will continue to love those who die without salvation and seek to bring them to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

 

7. There are three steps to become a Friend of Jesus: First, to seriously confront his teaching. We are called to love God and love our neighbor. Second, to decide that Jesus was right-- this love of God and neighbor is the most important thing. Then, third, we have to decide that we will try to live that way -- with Jesus as our focus, our compass. This is what makes one a Friend of Jesus -- the decision to follow him, to make him function as the Christ in our lives. Then we should acknowledge and declare this decision to follow Jesus.

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Dave,

 

I agree in the main but have my own thoughts about a couple of your points:

 

1. I don't like linking the 10 commandments with God's law of love as it suggests God provided the 10 commandments, which is a popular vein of thought to some. To me, although perhaps there is some inspiration for the 10, I predominantly see them as man-made and of a culutural influence of the time. They are patriarchal in nature and one even discusses women as property - I don't think that's God's love.

 

2. Salvation is such a loaded word with negative memories for me. If you mean saved in the sense that Jesus as a man inspired by God tried to tell others how to life to the full and if we choose to aim for that we will benefit well, then I'm in.

 

3. Yes a secondary source but it would pay well to remember it is only the doctrines and writings which won the day and made it to the canon. There was much around that was perhaps guided by the Holy Spirit but which isn't reflected in the bible.

 

5. I'm not a proponent of all other religions because I simply don't understand all other religions. I don't know everything that Mohammad says, but understand that some writings are indeed brutal. That's why Islamic fundies kill people, much like Christian fundies relied on their religion to support slavery. I can accept that much of many other religions is of a similiar vein to Christ's messages and offers hope to many.

 

7. I think you saying living with Jesus as a focus is intended well, but so many people have done that in the past in ways that I would say have been misinterpreted. Aren't we simply replacing a 2000yr old text with a 2000yr old man? If you mean focus in a 'soft' way, that Jesus is an inspiration and worthy of contemplation, then yes. If you mean focus as in studying his words as thought hey are literal, then no.

 

Please don't view those as negative, just my two bob's worth as constructive criticism from my point of view only.

 

Cheers

Paul

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1. OKay - I can see your point about the 10 Commandments so I may do a creative edit.

2. While you may find salvation to be a loaded term, one of my goals is to communicate with some of the more moderate believers and even questioning former conservative believers so I do not want to toss all language of relevance to them (instead I'll redefine the terms gently).

3. I agree with #3 completely but do not feel that a short 7 point intro is the place to discuss how scriptural canons were developed by human committees with political concerns and intrigues behind them. The Bible is important only because it lets us know how SOME people in the past interpreted their interactions with the Holy Spirit and Jesus. It also gives us the basics of the Jesus mythos.

5. I'm fairly familiar with Islam and other world religions - but also, in general, you will find the Golden Rule to be a common thread. Focus on that. If you focus on what divides us, it becomes much harder to follow the Law of Love (conflict never leads to love).

7. I don't get your point here. My Point 3 pretty much says the Bible is a human creation (which means it should not be taken literally). If you are heeding the Spirit, then NOTHING should be taken "literally". ;-)

 

Dave,

 

I agree in the main but have my own thoughts about a couple of your points:

 

1. I don't like linking the 10 commandments with God's law of love as it suggests God provided the 10 commandments, which is a popular vein of thought to some....

 

2. Salvation is such a loaded word with negative memories for me....

 

3. Yes a secondary source but it would pay well to remember it is only the doctrines and writings which won the day and made it to the canon....

 

5. I'm not a proponent of all other religions because I simply don't understand all other religions....

 

7. I think you saying living with Jesus as a focus is intended well, but so many people have done that in the past in ways that I would say have been misinterpreted. Aren't we simply replacing a 2000yr old text with a 2000yr old man? If you mean focus in a 'soft' way, that Jesus is an inspiration and worthy of contemplation, then yes. If you mean focus as in studying his words as thought hey are literal, then no.

 

Please don't view those as negative, just my two bob's worth as constructive criticism from my point of view only.

 

Cheers

Paul

Edited by DaveS
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I can appreciate the relevance of the term salvation as you suggest, it's just not my thing.

 

I agree you wouldn't want to go into a whole thesis about the development of the canon in these 7 points - my only point about it meant to say that your Point 3 as it stands, reads to me as though we can have trust that the bible contains the WHOLE history of the development of the church and so on. As you quite correctly clarify, it is how SOME people interpreted....etc etc

 

I agree the Golden Rule is often a common thread, and that focussing on the what divides rather than brings together can be detrimental. These are your points so as you say, it's what speaks to you. I would just feel more comfortable saying what you said in correcting me rather than saying I am a Friend of all these other religions which to me translates as though you agree with all of these other religions. You know what you mean, but others reading these points might not (if making tem public is something you plan to do).

 

I guess my last point goes even further to yours about the bible being a man-made creation. It's very possible, indeed likely, that the picture of Jesus portrayed in the canon is indeed man-made too. I know you're not one, but I've known too many people whom by making Jesus their focus (think 'what would Jesus do') start determining doctrinal psoitions because they believe this is what Jesus is/was/said. I like your point about heeding the Spirit. I guess at the end of the day that is ALL one needs do. By all means consider a 2000 yr old book, but understand that the book and the man portrayed in the book can possibly be wrong.

 

But of course Dave they are your points and I'm just throwing my two bobs in.

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