and to many
Modern 21st Century Unitarian Christians
Some of the most asked questions I get are about Jesus. It seems most people today think they know what a Unitarian might be, but they still can’t figure out how Jesus fits in with our faith. I don’t view this as an unusual or perplexing situation. I think that most modern 21st Century Unitarian Christians have a personal belief as to who Jesus was and what he means to them. The keyword is “personal.” Most modern 21st Century Unitarian Christians believe in one premise where Jesus is concerned. Whatever you believe in your heart about Jesus is correct, as long as it doesn’t mean that you insist that all others should believe the same.
Most of us believe that Jesus probably was a person who did live around the first century of the Common Era, in an area we know today as Israel. He seemed to be a devout Jew and traveled around in his adult life as an itinerate Jewish Rabbi. He preached a simple message of unconditional compassion toward all humankind and a reverence for all creation. His message was one of unity, peace, forgiveness, and living the Torah. He did speak out against the wrongs he saw from the religious rulers and hoped to bring about reform within the Jewish community. It is possible that he was seen as a “Spiritual Healer,” as many of the other Rabbis were. This was more of a hope than a reality, as is always the case with “faith healing.”
Most 21st Century Unitarian Christians do not believe in the supernatural aspects of the “Gospel Stories.” We see them as exaggerations of reality and most likely constructs of the Roman Church. The entity which controlled the writing of the New Testament and used it to advance their personal agenda. That does not mean that we don’t use these writings. We use them and all other religious texts to show the similarities of the message of Jesus and the other religious teachings. We study the Bible, and other such writings, with an intent to look past the literal context. And we look deeper at the intent of the message and how it applies to living the love of God and living in peace with all of God’s creations in our world today.
As Modern Unitarian Christians, we do not teach that Jesus is God incarnate, or God in human form. Because Jesus, being a devout Jew, would be appalled at such teaching. Unitarians believe in the “teachings” of Jesus as understood in his time. And with the condition that his teaching was consistent with his Jewish faith and the customs and norms in the place and time in which he lived. We also reject the teachings that the Holy Spirit is a separate entity from God because this is what Jesus would have believed. And when properly understood, this is what Jesus taught. The Holy Spirit is God’s presence within each of us, that life-force that gives us being.
As a 21st Century Unitarian Christian, I find the truths that Jesus taught most visible and relevant to my life when I accept him as being just as much human as I am. Then I can see past the myths and supernatural and find the true meaning of the Scriptures. And it is then the stories tell me of a life and message that was real then and is still real today. I don’t need to have a miracle to believe a simple message of love for one another or be a living example of God’s love for all the world to see. The message is what Jesus came to give us, and when we cloud it over with creeds, liturgies, rites, ceremonies, and the supernatural, it can be lost, or it’s meaning distorted.
In short, we 21st Century Unitarian Christians don’t worship Jesus. To most of us, Jesus isn’t “God Incarnate,” he is not our “Saviour” in the sense that he was a sacrifice for our sins. We don’t view Jesus as being the “Only Son of God,” as he taught and demonstrated that we are all God’s children, himself included. We don’t believe that he died for any purpose but to end his preaching and protect the power of the Jewish religious elite of his day. But in doing so, Jesus began a movement that would spread his simple message around the world. He had no concept of what he had started and would be appalled at how it has been distorted and misused.
But within that beginning, the message that Jesus taught was lived out and passed on by his family and friends, including the Apostles. They wouldn’t recognize the Christians of today or those of the first Roman Church. But they would know that tiny remnant of “Believers” who had held on to the truth even in the face of vicious persecutions by the Roman Church, and later the Protestants. I firmly believe that the message Jesus brought to humankind did not die with the first Christians or the countless martyrs throughout the centuries. But it lives on in their teachings and the examples of their lives and the sacrifice of their deaths to stand for the truth and to continue the message, just like Jesus. It lives on in the Modern 21st Century Unitarian Christians.
Today, we stand a still, small voice crying to a world gone wrong, and getting worse, and inviting all who will to come, and join with us. Reach out to your family, friends, and your community and tell them the truth. Tell them the simple message that Jesus wanted them to know and the instructions he asked them to live. We can all be “just like Jesus” if we are willing to step up and do so. He lived the love of God in all he said and did, as an example for us to follow. Throughout all these centuries, that truth has been passed down, and today I pass it to you. Jesus doesn’t want you to join an institution, have your name on a church membership book, or do anything but determine to live your life loving all others and caring for all of God’s creations. Jesus came to teach us a way of living, not to create a church for us to belong. The belonging is found in the living, which is found when we live in such a manner as to please God and make God proud, and that we would be just like Jesus. That’s the church that Jesus would recognize; that’s the kind of Christian that Jesus would want us all to be living his message for all the world to see and follow.
Sr. Pastor and President, Unitarian Christian Church of America (UCCA)
Web site: https://unitarianchristians.org/
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