~ "Oneness" Is Painful ~
Our vocabulary has grown with new words and changed the meanings of many old ones. When I was a kid, "gay" meant bright, colorful and happy. Today it means homosexual and the connection between the old and new meanings is a mystery to me.
"Truth" is no longer an absolute, but a fluctuating, self-created relativity. Today, your “truth” may not be my “truth,” but yours is right for you and mine is right for me. Communist Russia's official newspaper was called "Pravda,” meaning "truth." USSR cities were renamed and their history books were constantly revised to reflect an ever-changing "truth."
The word "tolerance" is connected to "truth," so it no longer means putting up with something to which you are opposed. Tolerating now means to embrace as equal in value and substance something with which you cannot endorse or even live. “Love” is no longer a covenant and discipline (from which "disciple" derives) but a fleeting self-serving feeling one falls in and out of, devoid of self-sacrifice, unless, of course, the self-sacrifice is in some twisted way self-serving.
English speaking people have also changed the meanings of useful words in theology. The Sanscrit term "karma" is excellently defined in Galatians 6: 7-8: "If you plant in the soil of your corrupt nature, you will harvest destruction. But if you plant in the soil of your spiritual nature, you will harvest eternal life." Some people of India and other Far East lands would readily understand how Christ Jesus could eradicate the world's karma, saving the people from the impossible task of doing it themselves even given a million trials through reincarnations. "Dying for your sins" is as foreign a concept to these people as "Absolute Truth" is to our children of this generation of moral relativism.
The Tao Te Ching of Chinese antiquity contains a remarkable assertion: "Only the one who takes upon oneself the evils of the world may be its savior." The Bhagavad Gita of the Hindu religious tradition says, “We are born into the world of nature; our second birth is into the world of spirit.” An Omaha Indian chant declares, “Father, a needy one stands before you. I that sing am that one.” There are gems of wisdom and declarations in all cultures that serve as points of contact between their understandings and the Good News of the Christ. The Taoists clearly define the qualifications of a world savior; the Hindus speak of a needed spiritual rebirth; the Native Americans confess a spiritual need before God the Father. As St. Paul said, to the Jew be a Jew; to the Greek be a Greek, that they may understand your words. We can use the sacred writings of other cultures as a witness to Christ who is transcultural.
"Occult" means "hidden" but we have changed its meaning to "evil." Yet the Scriptures are full with references to the hidden mysteries, of God deliberately blinding people to certain truths, of Jesus speaking only in parables to the people but "expounding on all things" to His disciples. "It is a wisdom that doesn't belong to this world or the rulers of this world who are in power today and gone tomorrow. It is a wisdom that has been hidden, which God had planned for our glory before the world began." (1 Corinthians 2:6b-7) Religions have their occult (hidden) treasures. If we continue to surrender the word "mystic" to the domain of the diabolical, we will lose a richly meaningful description of the Church: The mystical Body of Christ.
Some words we don't appreciate fully and thus fool ourselves. One such word is "oneness". I have spent many days throughout my life in the wilderness, many times with other people. Occasionally some of these people talk about how "one" they are with "nature". They spend the entire time smiling and vocalizing oohs and aahs as their senses drink in the beauty of creation. Indeed, that is a part of the "mystical" (feeling with the heart) experience. But I rarely see a person ever flinch with pain upon stepping carelessly on an anthill or turning a rock over to marvel at the hidden life running for cover and replacing that home exactly the way it was before. A person truly at "one" with nature will not need to be told he or she accidentally killed a caterpillar underfoot. That person will feel it die. Such a person will "say grace" or give thanks to the Creator before gathering firewood and will perceive stored sun energy being released as fire.
Electronic monitors attached to plants in different places in the lab have proven a reaction of distress in one plant when the other is cut with scissors. Certain species of trees under attack by parasites will release chemicals that warn other trees which then alter their pH balance and produce protective biochemicals to help slow the spread of the predators. A person truly at one with creation can feel all this drama in the life struggles, triumphs and pain in the wilderness and our gardens. Sometimes the person rejoices and sometimes he cries. Being "one with nature" doesn't mean continual bliss. Scripture often mentions the consciousness of creation. "Creation was subjected to frustration but not by its own choice… We know that all creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time." (Romans 8:20a, 22). Jesus addressed the elements of nature directly and "even the sea and wind obeyed Him."
The person who is "one with creation" won't be consciously aware of it unless something is wrong. When your physical heart (or any organ) is at one with your body, you don't notice. Harmony is one voice until there is discord within. When your heart isn't pumping in harmonious oneness with your body, you then are aware of your heart and its need for attention. And when the Sacred Heart of the Christ in you is beating out of harmony with your spirit, it is then you are most aware of His calling you back into harmony (oneness) with Him. St. Paul writes,"…the distress I caused you has led you to change the way you think and act. You were distressed in a godly way… But the distress that the world causes brings only death." (2 Corinthians 9b, 10b).
When oneness with Christ is truly your state of being, you are not self-conscious of it. You never look in the mirror and sing, "How Great Thou Art." Rather you feel a profound humility and sense of unworthiness, as you might when you receive a treasured heirloom from a friend. The slogan, "What would Jesus do?" loses its usefulness for you. If I had Jesus' intellect, wisdom, powers, purity of heart and was an incarnation of God, I might be able to tell you what He would do or say, although He was wonderfully unpredictable. I can only do what a sinful human with the Spirit of Christ in me would do. Ideally, it would be "all things with Christ Who strengthens me," an ideal toward which I strive.
If you want to be in a continuous state of a "Nirvana bliss," don't pray to abide in God’s love or to have His Spirit abide in you. Yes, your spiritual eyes and your heart of Christ will perceive and feel the glorious panoramas and exquisite realities of God's kingdom. However, you will also see the thirsty, hungry and sickly deformed Christ in the poorest slums in Calcutta from whom Mother Teresa could not pull away. You will see the Christ behind prison walls and hear people proclaim Him to be the "the scum of society, we should just kill them all" and your heart of Christ in you will feel the centurion's spear again. The Christ in you will scream every time an unborn new human or one partially born is stabbed to death for the convenience of adults. Your spiritual limbs and very breath will throb painfully when you hear of another member of the body of Christ being tortured or murdered under governments hostile to Christianity. You will be crucified with our Beloved Christ because you abide in His love. He promised persecution and many Americans say, "Thank the Lord we aren't persecuted yet," thinking only on the physical level. Jesus said you will be.
If you don't feel the persecution of Christ in you, perhaps you are not quietly listening to His Heart within. His followers even wrote it down: "Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me." (Matthew 25:45) St. Paul wrote, "Remember those who are mistreated as if you were being mistreated." (Hebrews 3:3b) "If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its suffering. If one part is praised, all others share in its happiness." (1 Corinthians 12:26)
Abiding in God's love is blissful, and it is suffering. It must be both or nothing at all. Those of you who raise children or care for loved ones know the ecstasy of love and self sacrifice. But you also know the agony involved in these relationships as you share in and carry the pain of your loved ones when they suffer. You want to suffer with your loved ones, and even would suffer instead of them if it were possible. Suffering affirms your love. That's why the Scriptures speak of the "joy of suffering" for our beloved Lord and the privilege and gain of martyrdom.
Yes, love is unreasonable. Love is not logical. During his torturous prison term in communist Romania, Richard Wurmbrand described how when one brother was being beaten on the cell block, all the others would pound their cell doors, yelling for the guards to stop. This was not logical or productive, because after the persecutors were finished, they would then beat every prisoner who yelled in protest. The prisoners would regard their wounds as those of Christ with no regrets. That was illogical, but profoundly loving.
Two close friends were in the middle of enemy crossfire running for cover during the last world war. One was shot down and his friend started back to get him. Disobeying the sergeant's order to remain under cover, the friend reached his buddy and he was shot while carrying his friend back. The sergeant exclaimed, "What a waste! Your friend is dead and now you will soon be." The soldier replied, "No sir, it was worth it. My friend was still alive when I got to him and his last words were, "I knew you would come."
We are the hands and feet, the eyes and mouths of Christ. When we pray, "Deliver us from evil," the Christ in a brother or sister may respond. As that human does the work of Christ, you can truly say to the Christ in him or her, "I knew you would come."
Sometimes the Christ in you may take you to respond to another's prayer for deliverance. James wrote "Suppose…one of you tells that person: ‘God be with you! Stay warm and make sure you eat enough.’ If you don't provide for that person's physical needs, what good does it do?" (James 2:16, GW) So in unreasonable love, you follow the Suffering Servant's Heart in you, denying yourself, and become the answered prayer of another. And that is part of the ecstasy of abiding in God's love!
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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Weekly Reflections © July 28, 2001
"God's Word" is a copyrighted work of God's Word to the Nations Bible Society. Quotations are used by permission.
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