During the silent worship portion of Quaker meeting today, a Friend ministered to the community by asking, “Do we live the Gospel?” and then sitting down, in that wonderfully open-ended, Quakery kind of way.
My deep aversion to speaking in public got the best of me. (I’m still getting my feet wet with the idea of being an active participant in this meeting, though I’m enjoying the hell out of showing up faithfully and sitting in silence, as I always knew I would.) But my thoughts orbited around his question for the rest of the meeting. Do we live the Gospel?…
Yes. Every one of us, every day of our lives, regardless of circumstances. And that’s what makes the Christian Gospel so compelling –it is the preeminent dramatization of the interior reality of our lives.
Every. Single. Human. Life. is represented by the birth-death-rebirth cycle of the Christ. I say this as a non-Christian pantheist: it is not just the greatest story ever told, it is the only story ever told, the monomyth at the heart of our existence. It is the story of our journey back to from whence we came, and then back out again, in a timeless cycle without beginning or end.
So if you wonder if you are living the Gospel and are inclined to think the answer is No –because you aren’t religious, or you’re not practicing your religion well enough, or you’re “not saved,” or you don’t give a flaming hoot about Jesus, etc– think again. Read it more closely, and by that what I mean is turn it inside-out. Internalize it. Let go of the notion that it is about people who lived 2,000 years ago and the preservation of lessons their lives can teach us.
Because the Gospel isn’t really about social justice or right living or laying down the law or holding up a bulwark against encroaching modernism and materialism. It’s about you.
It’s about aligning your will and identity with that which created you, the Reality outside of linear time, so that you do not have to live with the dread fear of a false death in an unreal future. It’s about learning to live in the Now. Anything else we read in it is a partiality we brought to it, and will eventually learn to sacrifice in order to be made whole, to lay down before the infinitely greater reality of Being itself that is our source and destination. So the just will learn to accept the presence of the unjust, the right will cease to prop themselves up at the expense of the wrong, rich and poor will be equally meaningless distinctions, the first shall become last, and so on.
To get there, we must first live out all these distinctions, and let ourselves be fooled by them. We all write our own complicated theatrical version of the Gospel by following the course of our individual lives, acquiring the baggage we pick up along the way, playing out the storyline written in shades of light and darkness by the choices we make. We write these stories in order to transcend them and leave them behind. They are not end goals unto themselves; they are springboards to divine Love. The purpose of any true spirituality is to keep us mindful of this ultimate goal, which can only be achieved, paradoxically, through surrender.
In truth, then, there is no way to not live the Gospel. In the Book of John 21:25, we are told “there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.”
You are one of those books. Write it well.