For all the good that formal religion does in the world, there is one element common to them all that takes a significant toll on the potential quality of the individual’s spiritual life. Nearly all depict their founders in a way that forever transcends the capabilities of their followers. Though Jesus shares the insight that “he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do” (John 14:12), few of us are ready to call in the press as we walk across a lake.
In the case of both mainstream and alternative Christianity, the focus of our spiritual aspiration has been directed to the personality and assumed accomplishments of Jesus rather than on what he taught. The more secular biblical scholars, those who are not trying to prove the merits of Christian dogma, understand there is a vast difference between the Jesus of history and Jesus the Christian icon. Unity author and minister, Eric Butterworth, accurately made the distinction between the religion about Jesus and the religion of Jesus. The religion about Jesus depicts him as a unique species, eternally placing the works he did out of our reach. The religion of Jesus presents us with a whole new set of possibilities that I like to think are more in line with his intentions as a teacher. We call him our wayshower, but did he intend that we follow his footsteps on his path, or was he showing us how to find our own?
There are indications that he tried to direct attention away from his own personality. When a man addressed him as “good teacher” he asked, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mark 10:18). Of course, we can draw countless examples and engage in endless debate on who and what Jesus was and what he intended to teach. Ultimately, each person is left to decide what he or she will do with this matter. For me, his role as wayshower was to point to my path, not draw attention to his.
I realize many will consider such a statement arrogant, perhaps even blasphemous. But I reached the point in my life where the relevance of a teacher of any sort has to be measured, not so much by their own accomplishments, but by the potential they tap in their students. If a teaching does not in some way empower the one who studies it, of what value is it? I have to agree with Meister Eckhart when he wrote:
“We may well all rejoice over this, that Christ our brother has through his own power gone up above all the choirs of angels and sits at the right hand of the Father. This authority has said well, but really I am not much concerned about this. How would it help me if I had a brother who was a rich man, if I still remained poor? How would it help me if I had a brother who was a wise man, if I still remain a fool?”
The life I live, the earth and the universe I inhabit are mine. Am I to stand here as a bewildered product of evolution or as the unique cutting edge of a cosmically creative process that only I can fulfill? Am I to follow the millions who are turning the path of another into an ever-deepening rut, or am I to blaze my own path? Though I have long ago abandoned the religion about Jesus, I continue to mine the gems of truth, that mystical thread that I find scattered throughout his teachings. I do not find among this treasure the admonition to compare my path to his. I find instead the urging, even the obligation to love the lord my God with all my heart, mind, and soul. The fruit of his direction, I have discovered, takes me from standing in awe of my brother’s wealth and wisdom to tapping into my own.
The finger of a true wayshower never points to themselves. It points to that very spot in front of us where our next step will likely land. “Are you here to follow a path,” they ask, “or are you here to blaze a trail?” They are not asking if we are ready to walk on water, raise the dead or feed the hungry through a miraculous multiplication of loaves and fishes. They ask only if we have come to that place in our quest for truth where we accept that an unborn facet of the universe stands at the door of our being and knocks. Are we prepared to open that door?