Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Further analysis of 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 for the post-religious

The last post began my translation of the "greatest of these is love" passage from 1 Corinthians. Here's the rest, starting with:

"If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

If I give away all that I have in the name of charity, which is prescribed by God and Jesus in the Bible, if I give to the poor and tithe at church as dictated by the bible, and if I offer myself up as a sacrifice to the flames like Jesus did….if I try to act exactly as Jesus did and offer my life to God, but have not love, but do not understand unconditional love, but do not love myself best, first, and most, then I am missing the point. If I make myself in Jesus’ image as a way to get to heaven, then I am deceiving myself; I am walking the wrong path and will spin in frustrated circles, confused by the fact that trying to be a good Christian leaves us unfulfilled in this hell on earth. It’s what the bible teaches us to do, but we, in our hearts know better. We do not need to be like Jesus, we do not need to sacrifice our lives to God like Jesus did, we only need be ourselves and love ourselves, fully. Warts and all. When you stop trying to act exactly like Jesus did, and just be yourself, you truly free the chains. Jesus missed a step: he told us to be like him in this life. Impossible. Will never work, and obviously it has not worked for 2000 years. He acted the way he did because by some lucky chance he "had love"; he understood what it feels like to be loved unconditionally and he loved himself first. When you have that lucky feeling, when we all know how to love ourselves with soul-deep love, then we inherit heaven on earth and cannot help acting in the loving way Jesus did. He knew heaven on earth was coming, he just told us the wrong way to get there. And that is the tragic truth: we have been walking the wrong line based on what Jesus told us to do.

Love is patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful, it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. These adjectives describe perfect love. It describes love as it will be experienced between humans when Heaven comes to earth. But for now, we love as humans: sloppy, hot and cold, jealously. I can love my husband or my child or my friend fully and still feel these human emotions. Human love as we conceive it now, pre-Heaven, is just that….it is human. You can love someone fully and still be jealous or proud or irritable or rude. Even God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament exhibited these human traits. Above all, they exhibited disappointment in us, which is a very human reaction. Stop beating yourselves up about how imperfect your love is right now. It's exactly as it should be.

This passage of adjectives about love is merely a description of what kind of love is coming for us all. It is not a standard to which we must hold ourselves right now. Because we can never ever be free of these human instincts. Not until Heaven comes to all of us. To take this passage and claim we have to love like this, without human instincts for jealousy or arrogance or irritability, sets the bar impossibly high and means inevitable failure. So always remember that this verse is just a taste of what love looks like in Heaven on Earth. It is a happy and heady look into the future. It is not a dictate for how you should love now. Do not even try. Just be yourself. Every instinct you have is worthy and true.

Love does endure and believe and hope. Love is the spirit coursing through all of us. Love begat God, love is greater than God. We created God in our image, so he is really just a mythical offspring of our troubled, searching minds. You, beautiful, lovely you, run the show; God does not.

Love predated us and sustains us now and will endure long after we are dead. This sentence allows you to believe in the prophecy of love incarnate come to earth. It distinguishes between a) the man-made prophecies in the first paragraph and b) the eternal hope that resides in all of our hearts, or the vision of perfect love that we all have, buried deep within us, obscured by the haze of religion. The love prophecy, or the love dimension, is the belief that there will be a tidal wave of love that overtakes all of us and brings heaven to earth. In present day. In our daily lives. This sentence helps you understand the difference between the love prophecy and the prophecies of preachers, so you will recognize it when it comes to earth. It will come as hope. Your heart’s hope: Love for self and knowledge that you are greater than any incarnation of God we have ever spoken of. There is not a glimmer of doubt in my mind that you are infinitely superior, stronger, and more capable of perfect love than the God of Abrahamic religion. Getting you to believe that is the work ahead. Which would you rather believe? That you are a broken sinner, only capable of peace and happiness and heaven by the grace of a faceless deity? Or that you are perfect and are utterly in control of your own happiness and that you are ready for heaven on earth EXACTLY as you are right now. That you never have to try to be better for anyone or anything else.

Tongues, prophecies and knowledge will pass away. The tower of Babel. Our different languages divide us. When heaven comes, we will all speak in a language that all can understand. In a love language, a reflexive love current connecting us all. We will still have our human languages that differentiate between nations, but we will understand each other fully without having to speak. Language will still be useful, but our hearts will communicate in a new way that is understood by all.

Prophecies will pass away. This means that religions as we know them will fall away. There will be no more organized religions. Each denomination and sect serves to divide us now. When heaven comes, there will only be a universal truth that pulls all the truth, all the best, from all the religions so that we all can understand and embrace the universal truth: that you are love incarnate and you are worthy of the highest self-love. It will recognize the good in all religions but it will interweave them and thus obviate the need for different faiths. We will all know the difference between that which is true about our various religions and that which is false or misunderstood. There will be one faith, in Love and in ourselves. Heaven here on earth will be post-religious.

Knowledge of God and Jesus as we understand him now will pass away. We have a man-made human conception of God and Jesus. It has been written, described for us by human writings. Our knowledge is third-hand. It's the only way we know God and Jesus in Christianity. From hearing the stories of them. Written knowledge of them will pass away. Our heart’s knowledge of the "God" we created, which is really Love, will triumph over the written description of him, because our personal spiritual knowledge of Love is infinitely stronger than any written, scriptural understanding of God. Our first hand knowledge of God will replace our third hand knowledge of God. There will be no more writing about God. You will see your neighbor and mother and son as "God" so you will not need descriptions or parables of him anymore.

At the same time, our academic knowledge will not pass away. Studying science and literature and history and math will only multiply exponentially. Heaven on earth will mean major breakthroughs in those areas, in the brain knowledge we possess. We will all use infinite capacity of our brain, not just 10%. At that level of thinking, all is possible.

Heaven on Earth is a bustling and busy and productive and cooperative place. Loving each other fully and working with each other fully will allow exponential progress in academic disciplines. We will all work in concert to solve global problems with amazing and unprecedented efficiency. No more war, famine, global warming, natural disasters, incurable diseases. I see this coming soon and cannot wait.

When Heaven comes to earth, the imperfect words and sermons and prophecies about the end of time will fall away. There is no judgment day or Armageddon or day of reckoning or war of the worlds. Heaven will envelop us like a warm and familiar blanket. The ease with which it comes will take us by surprise. It will not happen like it has been described, as God judging us and saving the righteous and casting out the ignorant or the non-believing. We all will inherit Heaven when we assume God. The good the bad and the ugly in all of us will walk there. There is no admission fee. When the perfect comes, our imperfect knowledge of what Heaven looks and feels like will pass away. We will literally see the light and see what’s right. We all know it in our hearts already, it’s just that we are veiled right now. When the veil of religion is thin, if just for a moment, the truth rings out to us.

When I was a child I spoke and thought like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me. This is a very interesting line because I think it is a double entendre, has a double meaning. On the one hand, I finally realized a few years ago that this is not a compliment. Young children are innocent and loving and do not fear. They know what is true about life because they are born knowing. All they know, before they meet us adults, is how to give and receive love unconditionally. We adults teach them guilt and fear and anger and hate and disappointment and resentment and what it feels like to not be loved. We steal their unabashed, pure, naked, fearless, innocent, inborn love. When you look in a baby’s eyes you see trust and truth. Unadulterated knowledge of the truth. When we become adults, we are taught by the abject fear preached by religion to put this pure understanding of unconditional love behind us.

On the other hand, as heaven comes to earth, we become adults in the lifespan of humankind. Have you heard of the theory of the history of humanity mirroring the lifespan of man? Well, when we receive heaven on earth, we move from being fractious, naïve, rebellious teenagers to being wise, self-sufficient, actualized, independent adults. We learn to stand on our own two feet. We fly out of the nest. We find strength and love in ourselves, instead of leaning on our parent, "God", for everything. We graduate from God just as we would graduate from high school. We take the good things we learned from high school with us, but we see what a facile, immature, naive time it was for us. This may be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is what I have come to understand about our transition to heaven on earth.

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Yes, YES! Couldn't have put it better myself, Paul. We see "God" face to face, we know him fully as he knows us, we see him in the mirror, we heal him as he heals us, we redeem him as he redeems us, we bring him joy as he does us, we recognize. We become the "God" we created in our minds. Assumption is the closest relationship there is. We make this leap in recognition because we cast off the fear and doubt taught by religion. Because we learn how to love ourselves without reservation. I have felt and understand soul-deep unwavering unadulterated love for self. I can show you how it’s done. I can give you the key to the Kingdom. By loving and comforting you. But more importantly, by banishing the fear that Christianity has taught for 2000 years. That we are born with a stain and will go to hell if we act on our human instincts. That we are imperfect. That God was ever or is ever disappointed in us. That God ever scorns us. That we EVER fail to measure up to God. That God will judge us when we die or on Judgment day. He never judges us. It's simply not his place any more than it is your dog's place to judge you. (At least your dog is a tangible, living, breathing organic creature, which is much more than I can say for God). “Love never judges.”

Now we see in a mirror dimly. We have an inkling of God-love and Heaven. We see glimpses of it in ourselves. On our best days, we see it clearly and believe in it. But it is shrouded for now. The veil obscures the truth about love. Our fear obscures it. When Heaven comes, the clouds in the mirror will vanish and you will see "God" and yourselves face to face. You will be introduced to God and you will see that he is you. When you look back at yourself in a mirror, you will see it is God looking back at you. Same/same. You will understand him fully and you will understand and love yourself as he reportedly loves you. Because you will become God; you will assume God. He will inhabit you completely. There will be no separation between you and God. And the recognition in the mirror will be so familiar and so easy, you will almost laugh. You will be so relieved. And he will finally be elevated from mythical elusive unseen figment to a real flesh and blood creature, and that is what he has always wanted and that is what he deserves. He wants to be here with us on earth. He is tired of being banished to the nether regions. He is tired of the millenia of separation from us.

You will understand fully. You will know all the answers. God and you will convene and understand each other fully. Being with God in heaven is like being with a funny familiar lifelong friend. As it’s put in Eat Pray Love, it’s like two fat happy old men sitting in a fishing boat and enjoying each other and laughing together and delighting in the fishing and in each other. You understand each other as best friends do. Because you see that God is your best friend: think of your best friend's name and believe that he is God. It totally revolutionizes how you treat him. There is no more holy distant reverence. He is a person. He is all of us.

Faith in yourself, hope for yourself and love for yourself abide. Note carefully that I did not say faith, hope and love for "God". We have been lavishing our priceless precious love on the wrong guy. Our love for him is never requited in hugs or kisses or laughter or consolation from him. It's always been a one way street. We give, give, give to god and we never get back. No wonder this is hell. Hamsters on a wheel.

The God Christians think they know is really Love. The greatest God you can imagine is Love. When you truly love yourself completely, you will inherit Heaven on Earth.

It’s not a prophet that will come to earth to tell us how to get to heaven. It’s someone who will come to model soul-deep self love. Who has confidence in knowing the truth. Who can assuage our fears and let us relax and be exactly who we are. Someone to show us what unconditional love feels like (not the act of giving unconditional love...that comes later....but the act of receiving and believing unconditional love).

I truly believe the way to heaven for all of us is coming. Sooner than we might think. And we are all ready for it exactly as we are today. We don’t need to be better people or prepare or atone or sacrifice or give more money or be better Christians. Our hearts are as prepared as they are going to get. Our hearts have always been ready for heaven. That’s the good news. No more changing who you are to better impress God or “win his grace.”

The bad news is that we've been taught the wrong thing and given the wrong objective and been told to try to be something we are not for thousands of years. Religion has been the map as we stumble in the dark. When the light comes on you no longer need the map. The bitter pill is that the map has been upside down the whole time. It's gotten everything backwards. It's been leading us in exactly the wrong direction forever.

Here’s the fundamental question. Does your own personal faith, whatever that faith be, does it fulfill you, sustain you, make you stronger, make you better, delight you, make you proud of yourself, make your fearless and optimistic, make you more loving, make you more productive, bring out the best in your, connect you with your fellow man, comfort you, help you sleep better, make you worry less, make you happier….make you the happiest you could ever be? Leave no doubt at all in your mind about what is true? If so, hurray! Because Eureka, you have found it. You are living in your own heaven. If you can say no to any part of the above question, then your religion is failing you.

For me this verse is truth. It is the core of my theology. Lots of the bible seems irrelevant or confusing, but this passage calls my name and seems like it was written just so I could understand fully what I believe and hold dear. It's how I know there are a few passages in the bible that totally depict the truth and foretell the future. It's why the end of religion does not mean wholesale forsaking of all that it taught you, just like graduating from high school does not mean you should forget all you learned and felt. It just mean there is such greater knowledge, experience, and understanding for you out there. Beyond and after religion.

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God, to have these guys in a room together again....