Next month Deepak Chopra will be speaking in my current city of Houston, Texas. It will be the third or fourth time I attend one of his talks. Of his many books, my favorite is The Third Jesus. In it, he identifies three aspects of this figure we have come to call Christ – the Jesus of Faith, the Jesus of History and the Jesus of Consciousness.
Christianity has placed much emphasis on the Jesus of Faith – the Jesus of the Nicene Creed; the Jesus sent by God to die for the sins of humanity so we may have everlasting life. But, and this is a big but, Heaven’s gates will only open if you accept this as truth and Jesus as your Lord and Savior.
While there is much controversy as to whether this is all it takes to enter the Kingdom, I have been told repeatedly that, yes, it is. I can live a life of evil and wretchedness and on my last breath “see the light”, so to speak, accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior and entrance is granted. As far as the afterlife goes, this makes Christianity a very convenient religion.
The Jesus of History refers to the actual man who walked the earth ministering and teaching. The man upon whom the Christian faith was founded and is arguably the most influential figure in all of human history.
The Jesus of Consciousness appears the most compelling of this version of the holy trinity. To understand this Jesus we must understand the concept of consciousness. Simply stated, consciousness is awareness; a level knowing and understanding. We all exist at various levels of awareness, knowing and understanding at any given time.
Consider being in a huge crowd. Now, imagine everyone in the crowd suddenly reacting to something. You have no awareness of what has caused this reaction, only what those in the immediate vicinity are doing. Now, imagine you are standing on an elevated perch with an expanded view that allows you to see the entire crowd. From that perspective you can see the larger context; therefore, have greater awareness, knowledge and understanding of the crowd’s reaction.
The third Jesus refers to the radical shift in consciousness that occurred with his coming and though his teachings. With Jesus and the New Testament, we see the shift from an angry, vengeful God to a loving and merciful God. To say this was a massive transformation of the collective mindset is an understatement.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asserts that anyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty in the court, just as the person who commits murder. Adultery, not just acted upon, but existing in the mind is an equal offense. He speaks against the existing vengeance consciousness of an eye for an eye offering instruction to turn the other cheek. Perhaps the most radical of his ideas is the notion of loving your enemies.
From a certain perspective, none of these directives make any sense whatsoever. However, when we understand that our actions are the offspring of emotion born of thoughts originating in the mind, Jesus equating lustful thoughts or harbored anger to adultery and murder seems more wisdom to heed that nonsense that confuses. When we understand that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, turning the other cheek becomes the better part of valor.
That leaves the notion of loving your enemies; a difficult teaching to grasp and even more challenging to practice. The deeper questions regarding loving your enemy are, what does this actually mean and why? Conventional thinking compels us to rid ourselves of our enemies. You go to war against your enemy. You destroy your enemy. You defeat your enemy. But loving them?
My understanding of Jesus’ invitation toward love vs. vengeance requires faith; specifically the belief that nothing of the human experience is wasted or lacks value. My deeply held faith belief is that all experiences serve our healing, growth, expansion and evolution toward higher states of consciousness for the parts of me that are flesh, bound by birth and death, as well as the part that is spirit. I believe we are all here, first and foremost, on a soul mission and the experiences of the life journey serve the greater, grander purpose of the soul’s work. The experiences affording the greatest opportunities for our unfoldment are often those which bring great suffering.
Those who are intentional about healing and growth know this. The most difficult, challenging, even traumatic experiences usually contain the greatest gifts and blessings. We must do our psychological healing work around these issues first. Then we are able to engage the existential questions around meaning. In many instances the pain inflicted by our worst enemies lead to purpose and mission. Consider the example of John Walsh who became a crusader for victim’s rights after the kidnapping of his son.
Having the right question is far more valuable than having the right answer. What good is having the right answer to a question that lacks relevance? The conventional answer regarding our enemies are to destroy them. The conscious questions regarding our enemies are: What is this person here to teach me? What lesson am I to learn from this experience? How might this adversary be a source of healing in my life? Is there an unresolved issue is this person triggering? Is this enemy mirroring a disowned part of myself that needs to be integrated? What skills or capacities is my experience with this person compelling me to develop? How might this experience serve my greater purpose in life?
Loving our enemies does not mean allowing ourselves to be victimized nor does it mean maintaining an unhealthy or abusive relationship with someone. Loving our enemies simply means embracing the opportunity this person, through their actions, is presenting to us. Simply ridding ourselves of their presence is a missed opportunity.
The recent incident with the SAE fraternity at the University of Oklahoma is a good example. The university severed ties with the fraternity, closed the SAE house, students were expelled and the President of the university harshly condemned the actions of the misguided individuals involved. Branding them as racists and casting them out offers no transformational value to the deeper issues reflected in their behavior. Certainly consequences are warranted for such actions; however, higher consciousness holds the awareness that actions are end the result of a process that begins the in heart and mind. Our society gets off on punishing actions yet ignores rehabilitating the mindsets and heartsets from which they originate.
What lessons could be learned? What opportunities for healing exist? How could everyone, especially the individuals involved grow from this experience? What possibilities exist if we lean into the issue of racism, the sentiments expressed and deeply and personally explore this incident? Instead of casting them out, why not involve these individuals and the entire fraternity in racial healing initiatives or multicultural endeavors. In the spirit of loving your enemy, there is space for accountability and opportunities for the healing, growth, expansion and evolution for all involved and all affected.
I live by the principle that God works in mysterious ways. As such, my challenge is to remain open to the unique, creative, confusing, unorthodox, paradoxical, frustrating, humorous, profound and infinite ways this Force seeks to operate in my life. From this perspective, the glass is neither half empty nor half full. It is always overflowing. From this perspective, your enemies are no longer your enemies but allies in service to your psyche and soul.