Monday, January 26, 2009

The Prophet Isa: Part 3- What He Means to Me

This is one of the most interesting topics I've ever read in Islamic theology. Before I read or knew anything about the Islamic view of Jesus (Isa) I thought Christianity and Islam had very little in common. They still don't have much in common but I think this hope they share in Jesus' message and eventual return is vital to any remaining dialogue between the two faiths in this post 9\11 world.

[Jesus meditating near Mt. Kailash in Tibet by Bruce Harman]

Part 1
Part 2

Jesus Christ is one of the most widely known and beloved figures in history. As a spiritual teacher Jesus is many things to many people: to the
Bahá’í he is a manifestation of God; to Hindus, a shaktyavesha Avatar; to Muslims, a messenger of God; to Buddhists, a bodhisattva; to Christians he is Messiah, Son of God. In Part 1- A Sign for Humanity I went over the basic beliefs Muslims have on Jesus and what he represents, and in Part 2- A Long Awaited Hope I wrote about the hope that Christians and Muslims both share in the second coming of Jesus. In this last segment on the Prophet Isa I'd like to focus on what he means to me.

I no longer consider myself a Christian. Some Christians may cringe at the thought that anyone that has received Christ into their heart (which I truly did in my youth) would be willing to forsake Christ, but all I really left was a man-made church and its man-made teachings to follow the true spirit of Jesus. It is because his teachings touch upon that vein of love buried at the foundations of our world religions that he is accepted, loved, and followed by billions. Can non-Christians follow Jesus and his teachings without worshiping him as God incarnate? This is the exact predicament that I face when I speak with Christians. Some believe it's all or nothing, "either you love Jesus, the Son of God, or you don't. You can't separate Jesus the man from Logos the Word, and by doing so you attack everything Jesus represents and did for humanity." The doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ are hard for me to swallow only because it does
not help me to commune with the Divine. I can not imagine a God that I could not come directly to in prayer and meditation. This is not because I feel I am righteous enough to come before the Almighty but because the relationship becomes more personal without an intermediary.

So where does Jesus fit in my beliefs? He is my model to how I should interact
with my fellow man and how to worship our Creator. I do not believe the original message of Jesus was to declare worship for himself as God or to become a sacrificial lamb for our sins, but I believe he intended to rekindle the flame of love inside our hearts so that it radiates throughout our bodies and pours off of our tongues. He is my signpost, my guide, my compass, not the destination. I felt so strongly about what he means to me that I designed a symbol and had it tattooed on my right forearm. At that point in my life I saw myself as a Christian and I wanted to get a tattoo that represented my beliefs. I did not want to get a crucifix so I decided to base my tattoo on the first two letters in the Greek spelling of the word Christ, the Chi Rho. I replaced the Greek letter chi with a sword and a hammer representing that I am a soldier and worker for Christ's message and teachings. I had it placed on the inside of my right forearm for several reasons:
  • The right hand in biblical symbolism is associated with the righteous.
  • It is kept from direct view on the inside of my arm to symbolize my belief in religion being a private matter.
  • The point where the hammer and sword cross right below my wrist is the point where Christ could have been nailed to the cross.
I had it done because I never imagined myself as anything other than a Christian. It is my daily reminder of how we should fight injustice and work towards a loving and compassionate society.

Although the title of this post is on the Prophet Isa I see both the Muslim and Christian Jesus as one and the same. Both were messengers of God who taught that by unifying yourself (harmonizing the inside and outside of spirit and body) we can begin to heal the scars that divides Humanity. When a unified Humanity arises then we can truly come to understand the mysteries of the universe and its Creator.


Anonymous said...

[ longer consider myself a Christian]
I do not believe in the divinity of Christ nor the major tenets of Christianity - but I do believe in the universal "message" of Christ as we understand it today. To me, anyway, that makes me a Christian (in a non-traditional sense).

[...heal the scars that divides Humanity]

Historicaly, religious beliefs (Christianity & Islam in particualr) generate more strife than harmony. How does this fit into the "reality" of Jesus?

Eruesso said...

[...but I do believe in the universal "message" of Christ as we understand it today.]

I guess by that definition that I'm also a Christian. Likewise, I'm also a muslim (little m) if you define being a muslim as one who "submits to the will of God". It is the battle over the definition of the will of God and its offspring of ritual and beliefs that divide us. If we (global "we")were to set aside our rituals and beliefs and try to get back to the universal message of Christ and other spiritual teachers then we might be able to truly love our neighbor. This is the main mission of my blog, to learn as much as I can about my neighbor so that I may come to love him that much more.

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