Saturday, September 21, 2013

Checkmate For Hell - Part 19: The Golden Rule and the Holy Spirit

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts, meant to be read in order.  In the first post, I introduced the concept of Universalism, and introduced the concept that I would be defending my position through a series of "chess moves".  I mentioned that I believe I have checkmate in 2 moves, but because a lot of questions would be left, I would use a series of further moves to keep the king in checkmate while I systematically removed the rest of the pieces from the board.  I would highly suggest you read the previous parts of this series before reading this one:

Part 1: Moves 1-3
Part 2: Moves 4-5
Part 3: Moves 6-7
Part 4: Move 8
Part 5: Moves 9-10
Part 6: Move 11
Part 7: Move 12
Part 8: The Six Line Narrative
Part 9: Two False Gospels, and a Man in a Pit
Part 10: Creation/Fall and Spirit/Soul/Body
Part 11: The True Gospel
Part 12: Deconstructing Our Ideas of Heaven
Part 13: Resurrection and "Spiritual" Bodies
Part 14: A New Diagram
Part 15: Creation/Heaven Fruits
Part 16: Hell Fruits
Part 17: What Is Hell?/The Narrow Gate
Part 18: Sin and Evil

The Golden Rule and the Holy Spirit
In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus summarized the law in two commands: love God, and love your neighbor “as yourself”.  One thing that we learn in this second command is that there is a secret third command embedded within – love yourself.  This may seem wrong to us, but when you realize that seeing yourself as unloved or unlovable circumvents the commandment to love your neighbor, you realize that it is implied.  And I believe that loving my neighbor means that I must see them “in heaven” (keeping in mind a proper understanding of what that really should mean) just as I see myself “in heaven”.  I must bring heaven to my neighbor unconditionally, as it was unconditionally brought to me by Christ Jesus himself.

Thomas Merton wrote, in “A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals”:

As long as a single person is lost I am lost. To try to save myself by getting free from the mass of the damned (massa damnata) and becoming good by myself, is to be both damned and absurd--as well as antichrist. Christ descended into hell to show that he willed to be lost with the lost, in a certain sense, emptied so that they might be filled and saved, in the realization that now their lostness was not theirs but His. Hence the way one begins to make sense out of life is taking upon oneself the lostness of everyone--and then realizing not that one has done something to "make sense" but that he has simply entered into the stream of realization. The rest will work out by itself, and we do not know now what that might mean.

It is through the Golden Rule that we learn that the secret to “getting out of Hell” is not to do whatever we must in order to get ourselves out of it, but to seek to get our neighbors out of it.  As we save our neighbors through love, we save our very souls.  As we love our neighbors, we begin to find ourselves to be loveable.

This understanding of the Golden Rule can help us to understand how the Holy Spirit works.  I must confess that I was never able to conceive what the Trinity really was, nor how it worked, until I became a Universalist.  I knew the proper language, but I wasn’t really a Trinitarian, to be honest.  But as I began to accept Universalism, and this opened me up to new possibilities, I began to truly understand passages like Ephesians 4:4-6, which says:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Those who believe in eternal conscious torment have a possessive view of the Holy Spirit – only we have the Holy Spirit, not you.  They believe that the only way to experience the Holy Spirit is if you’ve said your proper magical incantation and accepted the correct doctrine into your head.  Anyone who has not done this cannot possibly do good.  But if we properly understand that God is love, then we can look at a man like Gandhi and see the image of Christ in him.  If we understand that the Holy Spirit works by appealing to the empathy in all men’s souls – whether they be Christian or Jew or Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim or Agnostic or Atheist (or any number of other possibilities) – then our eyes can be opened to the workings of “God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  And it is then that we can understand the Trinity, expressed in the “body of Christ”.  When we understand how we are all – every single one of us – part of that body, we understand that the Kingdom of God is brought about by the body working together in love and harmony.  In a body, when a small group of cells begins to work for themselves at the expense of the body – hoarding the resources meant to nourish the entire body – it is called cancer.  Likewise, God has designed us to work together in love, as a body.  We are not meant to cast out certain groups merely because they are different – we are meant to work together in love and serve each other as the cells in a body would work together and serve the collective whole of the body.  It is an illusion to believe that we can be an “individual” – to believe that we have gotten where we are only through ourselves and none other.  And when we seek “individuality” and say to others “I will take care of myself, you take care of yourself”, we create schisms in the body – we give the body cancer.  Love is the only way to heal the cancer and mend the schisms and heal the body.

In John 17:20-23, John writes that in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed:

My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me — so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

When we embrace empathy, and see others’ needs as being greater than our own, we are listening to the Holy Spirit, and this is how we may live in unity as Jesus prayed.  When we ignore empathy, it is actually a form of spiritual suicide – we are allowing our false selves to slay our true selves.  But as our true selves are born in the Holy Spirit and thus cannot be permanently killed, we will die daily if we live that way – we live in constant death.  It is only when we seek unity – love that transcends the artificial boundaries set up by society – that we can find the unity that Jesus prayed for.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in “Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community”:

Human love has little regard for the truth. It makes the truth relative, since nothing, not even the truth, must come between it and the beloved person.

It is through this kind of love that we realize that the only Truth is infinite love.

When I am faced with the evils of hatred, war, poverty, loneliness, broken relationships, prejudice, self-loathing, and addiction, I realize that the only thing that can overcome these things is perfect love.  As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I will leave you with one last verse:

Colossians 1:19-20
For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

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