Of course there is only one historical Jesus, born in Nazareth and crucified atop an obscure hill known as Golgotha. But what happened after that is a Mystery with a capital M that has been, and is still being, pondered by the greatest minds and spirits among us. This Mystery is the stuff of countless libraries of scholarly philosophy and spiritual exegesis or interpretation. Beyond the dogma and the moral trappings, however, is a spiritual revolution the likes of which exists in no other religion. What happened after the death of the historical Jesus, was the advent of the ‘personal savior’—one for you and one for me. God, once man, returned to his faithful on an individual basis to perfect himself in us and us in him.
If this is true, then why does your image of Jesus bear little resemblance to mine? Why does mine bear little resemblance to my neighbor’s? Why are Christians so splintered in their social, moral, and political beliefs? Why does one conduct war under the banner of his name and another march against the same war, also in his name? In doing this we confound not only non-Christians, but also each other. If Jesus is derived of the Trinity of Absolute Wholeness, than why is everything in his human family so splintered, variable and relative?
Recently I ran across a shocking little verse from the Book of Hours, a daily Christian devotional that has been used for centuries by monks and other religious. This verse was written in the 14th century by Catherine of Siena, and it says, “Through this union of the divine nature with the human nature, God was made human and humanity was made God.” What?! Who here believes that? If we did, I assure you, our human attitude and behavior toward ourselves and each other would be of a far greater quality than we have ever known or experienced.
St. Paul refers to the body of believers as the “Mystical Body of Christ”—the head, heart, hands, and feet that carry the message and compassion of the Spirit to others, continuing his work on the material plane. The very image of the Mystical Body implies different gifts and different missions. Different interactions with the Spirit. But this is only one aspect of the consequences of a personal God.
If Jesus is a personal God, then he interacts individually in each of us. And as such, within each of us, he encounters a different personality, a different ‘Mind’, including different experiences—fears, anxieties and pleasures; different attributes and restrictions; different egos; as well as infinite different fixed belief systems, both real and invented, true and false. The job of a personal Savior is as unique as the DNA of the person he is transforming. So it stands to reason that at any point in the process, the Savior performing spiritual alchemy in me may not appear to be anything like the Savior at work in you, and vice versa.
For instance, let’s say my Jesus detests war, reaches out for the disenfranchised at every opportunity, and applauds any act or intention of selfless love. And I, in my response to his spiritual alchemy, represent and project exactly those philosophies and qualities into my family, communities, and greater world.
Let’s say someone else’s Jesus is interacting with a traumatized personality, a personality who has responded to injury and abuse with addictive or violent behavior. The evidence of Jesus in his or her life may be drastically different than in mine. That Jesus may incorporate a very firm-hand—a central rod of control, helping that person to reach deep for a new set of standards and values, including iron will, self-discipline, unyielding self-assessment, and a brand new awareness of herself and the world. In response to the intervention of that spiritual force or alchemy, this person will most likely project less forgiving, more rigid philosophies into her family, communities, and greater world—philosophies and qualities of firm control, discipline, and justice.
I could go on, but you get the picture. In the greater Christian community, there are as many variations of Christ-intervention, expression and spiritual understandings as there are personalities among us. It is not one thing. And this is an important idea, because in these extremely divided times, we need each other more than ever. We need each other’s points-of-view and opinions though they differ, because each of them is a product of the same God working to perfect what’s missing in me and what’s missing in you. The person whose viewpoint we refuse to accept may be the viewpoint of someone—not on the wrong path—but further along the path, more spiritually evolved. A viewpoint that we cannot see or accept, not because it’s wrong, but because we ourselves have not yet reached that bend of the road.
Saint Paul says that the evidence of Christ’s work is in the fruit. The mature fruits of the Spirit are bursting with joy, peace, and prosperity, but also include patience, humility, endurance, and compassion. Each of us is somewhere in the process, and we are expected to learn from each other. Look at anger, rage, spite and envy and you are probably looking at a faithful Christian deep in the process of transformation. Look for true peace and compassion, and there you will find God made man, and through him, man made God. His true reflection can only be seen through the lens of true humility—a lens that tirelessly seeks Truth instead of self-satisfaction.