Today is Easter, the most holy holidays for Christianity, with an estimated 2.4 billion followers world-wide. Easter is the occasion on which Christians celebrate the resurrection of their lord and savior, Jesus Christ. According to Christian Theology, Jesus was the son of God who was sent by his father in heaven to die for the sins of the world, with his death purifying their souls such that they might have a blissful life-everlasting in heaven, in the company of God.
I was raised in a Christian household, I was baptized, confirmed, and celebrated the high holidays with my family. Throughout many times in my life, I have found comfort in the message of Jesus Christ, who led an exemplary life marked by kindness and compassion for all of mankind. I am no longer as certain of the true holiness of the man called Jesus as I once was. I have grown somewhat cynical in my years and have difficulty putting faith in that which lies beyond my understanding. Nevertheless, I will always be grateful for the lessons of Christ instilled in me. To this day there are still moments where I find myself crying out to god in moments of fear or extreme joy. That there is a higher power, I do not deny, and maybe, just maybe that higher power is the Christian God and his son Jesus. In which case I hope they will forgive those of us who doubted, but lived our life as best we could all the same.
Whether one believes Jesus Christ was the son of God, or just a man, I think that when one observes his life, it cannot be argued against that he was one of the most influential and kind humans to ever exist. Whether you believe he is the son of God who died for your sins, or believe he was simply a normal man, Jesus Christ lived an exemplary life, embodying the very virtues that he spent most of his known life preaching: kindness, compassion, love, joy. This post will examine some of Jesus’s most important lessons. Son of God, or just a good human, we would all be better to follow the example set out by this great man who died 2021 years ago.
While organized religion has often corrupted the message of the holy figures, this is a man made disaster and not in line with the teachings of the prophets, in this case Jesus. Jesus Christ taught love and peace, welcoming anyone into his company. He is responsible for giving us the golden rule that children and adults the world over are familiar with: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).” If one were to distill the entire life of Jesus and deliver it in 140 characters or less, it would probably be summed up as here in Matthew 7:12. Throughout multiple gospels, that is the most important lesson that Jesus taught. Gone are the confusing and vengeful figures of the old testament with fire and brimstone, and a plethora of does and don’ts. As he is quoted in John 13:34: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” almost identical to Matthew 7:12 When Jesus arrives, he delivers the message that the only thing that matters is kindness. This is said over and over in the teachings of Christ. Above all else, be kind.
The message of Jesus is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. As any student of history can tell you, and as I have mentioned several times before throughout my blog, times have changed by humanity is largely unchanged. Human beings in the times of Jesus were not so different than you or I. They had the same basic wants: to be happy, to be with loved ones; the same fears: what happens when I die, what if something bad happens; and the same flaws: greed, avarice. Jesus recognized this and sought to be a leader who could offer counsel and guidance to a troubled world. On the subject of greed, he asked: What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?(Mark 8:36)” On the subject of worry, he added the following: “Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:34)”
It brings me a surprising level of comfort to recognize that thousands of years ago our ancestors struggled with the same issues as we do today. I hope this isn’t a classic example of misery loving company. What I hope instead is that this is a recognition that none of us are alone. This has been one of the most rewarding aspects of therapy or even communicating about issues, recognizing that there are others who endure the exact same struggle. This is why we have support groups for nearly every issue under the sun. There is strength in fighting the same fight or carrying the same burden.
These teachings of Jesus serve as excellent lessons on how to live well. As I reviewed these scriptures, I was reminded of other teachers we have discussed in this blog. We have heard the Dalai Lama preach the importance of kindness and compassion for others, just as Jesus did. We have heard the Stoics talk about the need to worry less, recognizing that some things are out of our control, which in the Christian case they simply entrust their fate to god. It brings me great joy to see these same themes appear again and again, transcending geographic and temporal barriers. It doesn’t matter if you believe that Jesus was the son of God or not. What matters, at least in so much as living well, is that the way he instructed us to live resonates with all of humanity. If we take the life of Jesus, we have a roadmap for how to live a good life. I am convinced that if we follow his example the world will be a better place. I know that Christianity is about ultimately accepting Jesus as one’s lord and savior, and while I may not be quite sure about that personally, I can confidently say that this was a good man worthy of our respect. Christians and non-Christians alike would do well to follow the teachings of this man, I do not imagine that doing so would in anyway conflict with the teachings of other religions, or with a good existence period, all of which depend on kindness and goodness to others. Happy Easter to all, I hope those of you who celebrate will enjoy time with loved ones and friends honoring the life of this remarkable being.