The false notion of our original badness is a ball and chain, preventing us from embracing our original goodness. My Inbox is proof of this with emails that say things like this: “At church, I learned that God loves me less because I’m female. Organized Christianity insisted that I am a filthy, stinking, horrible, sinful person deserving of Hell. I’m less than worthless, and knowing so is a godly attribute. Church taught me to despise myself and be afraid of God.”
We all know there’s a denotative and connotative meaning of what is communicated. In too many cases, people are deriving the following connotative meaning from the gospel they hear:
“I am a scumbag. God is perfectly holy. If it were up to God, I’d be condemned to burn in Hell forever. That’s just how bad I am, and how good God is. Thankfully, God is sort or stuck and can’t really send me to Hell now because of what Jesus did. Phew! I’m sure God will never be very fond of a scumbag like me, but at least I’m making it into Heaven when I die. In the meantime, I’m off the hook because when God looks at scumbag me, God doesn’t see scumbag me; he sees Jesus instead. It’s all good. I knew I’d never amount to anything in God’s eyes anyway.”
Contrary to pop-Christian beliefs, there is nothing wrong with the human condition. The story of humankind’s relationship to and with God begins (Book of Genesis) by telling us that we are born out of the image, likeness and being of God. God’s being is the ground of our being. The image and likeness of God is the underlying, unchanging, and fundamental essence of who we are. At the core level of our being we are one with God. Can God be damaged, diminished, or corrupted? Can God be made better or improved upon? Of course not! And so it is also with each of us as sons and daughters of God. Or in the words of Paul in Acts 17, “For in God we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”
Jesus unmasked the false notion that our humanity separates us from God by demonstrating that the two can be one. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the truth.” It is not necessary to be born again because you were born just fine the first time. You were born out of the image, likeness and being of God. You can’t do any better than that.
It’s unfortunate that John 3:3 was translated in the King James Version with the phrase “born again” – “Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.’”
A more accurate rendering would be “born from above.” In other words, your mind and body were given to you for a human experience in order to navigate and function in the phenomenal or created world. But we know we are not our mind and body. Right? Our true Self was born out of the image, likeness and being of God. That Self already exists in and as the Kingdom of God.
Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God has come.” People looked around and couldn’t find it because they were expecting it in the form of the phenomenal world, because that’s all that the mind and body knows and can relate to. Jesus responded by saying that the kingdom of God is within you. It’s that Self that was born from above that knows and accesses the reality of God’s kingdom. Jesus was trying to get Nicodemus to see that there was no way no how he was ever going to find the Kingdom of God the way he was looking for it or expecting it.
This is essentially the explanation Jesus gives in verses 5 and 6: “I tell you the solemn truth, unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
John 3:3 has nothing to do with “Christian salvation.” Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus is about the issue of “entering the Kingdom.”
Jesus unmasked the false notion that our humanity separates us from God by demonstrating that the two can be one. Neither does the human condition separate us from the Kingdom of God, which Jesus said is here and now.
So, why do we pollute, murder, rape, torture, traffic children to exploit, and starve for political and ideological gain? Spiritual ignorance. We go into the world and scrap and claw to find meaning, identity, peace, happiness and fulfillment, and there is no end to what one will do to get it, including hurting others. Why do we do this? Because we falsely believe we are separated from God, separated from each other, separated from peace, separated from wholeness, separated from freedom, separated from well-being, separated from meaning, separated from….
The world is as it first appeared in the Garden. Nothing has changed. All the other stuff we have added through our spiritual ignorance – taking things to be a way they really aren’t. There will always be pain in this world. This is natural. You hit your finger with a hammer and it produces physical pain. A loved one dies and you feel emotional pain. But suffering is something we unnecessarily create and impose on life out of our spiritual ignorance. This is why Jesus said, “If the eyes are good, the whole body is good.” In other words, to see things as they truly are is to be free. This is what creation is groaning for – that you and I will see the truth, which sets all living things free.
People see the only following options in terms of an answer to the suffering of the world:
A. It’s the human condition and nothing can be done about it
B. God will rapture us out of it
C. Heaven is waiting and we will escape this mess entirely
D. Satan is to blame
E. The world is inherently evil and must go up in flames
All of the above lets us off the hook and fails to recognize the the real issue.
The inconvenient truth we don’t like is:
We are responsible for the mess of the world. There is nothing or no one to blame except ourselves and our spiritual ignorance. We don’t have to be doing this. We are free to choose differently.
Through the misuse of our mind and body, which is a vehicle for knowing and expressing our true Self, we instead create a false identity, born out of spiritual ignorance. In this way, we fall short and miss the mark of who we are, which is a denial of who we are and the way things truly are. This denial distorts and corrupts our understanding of all things, and the truth becomes hidden inside a web of lies.
Jesus confronted and exposed that web of lies, and for this he was crucified. You can kill the mind and body, but the true Self – our underlying, unchanging, and fundamental being that is one with God – is never threatened.
And yet for this, we have twisted the life and teachings of Jesus into another web of lies far worse than the one he originally dismantled.