This land is mine.
God gave this land to me.
This brave and ancient land to me.
And when the morning sun
Reveals her hills and plains,
Then I see a land
Where children can run free.
So take my hand
And walk this land with me.
And walk this lovely land with me.
– Pat Boone, from “The Exodus Song” (1960)
You would think that building a website for Jesus would be a simple thing, but I struggled with the design for months. When you are asked to do something for Jesus, you want it to be completely amazing! I want people to love Jesus’s words as I love His words, and to see in them all that I see in them. I want everyone to easily find in those words each his or her own perfect pathway to his or her own more wonderful life, and I couldn’t find a way to make that happen. Eventually we came up with what I now think of as a starter version of teachingsbyjesus.com. I imagine that we will be working on this website for years, gradually making it work ever better for each individual user. Because the teachings of Jesus are at the same time both much more complex and a great deal simpler than they seem to be when you first read them.
Please take, for example, the Lord’s teaching that Thomas and Jesus have been urging me to write about for weeks. They tell me that it is meant to be Jesus’s Ninth Core Teaching. And I tell them that, sure, but I don’t see enough in it even to make a half-decent blog post! “Just follow Jesus’s teachings closely and you can live a better life.” That is your entire blog post right there. So, how is that a Core Teaching?
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and its collapse was great” (MT 7:24-27). And there you have it! That is the whole blog post. Just do what Jesus says. Done deal. But still, they keep insisting. Oy.
What was Jesus really talking about when He talked about rock vs. sand? Well, anyone who knows Jesus would guess that He was talking about love. Build your house on love. Almost every third word out of Jesus’s mouth has something to do with love. But we know by now that for Jesus, love is not what you and I think of as love. No, for Jesus, love is not an emotion. It is an intense and profound and unchangeable way of being.
“Then His mother and His brothers came, and while standing outside they sent word to Him, calling for Him. And a crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.’ Answering them, He said, ‘Who are My mother and My brothers?’ And looking around at those who were sitting around Him, He said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, this is My brother, and sister, and mother’” (MK 3:31-35).
A Course in Miracles was channeled to us in the nineteen-sixties by a team that reportedly was headed by Jesus. And in The Course, Jesus calls the kind of love that we have for our family members and close friends “special loves,” and He says that special loves are as spiritually counterproductive as are “special hates.” Believe it or not! No, the kind of love that Jesus teaches is universal. It is big enough to encompass all of humankind, as constant as the ground on which you stand, and important enough that you would give your life for it without a thought. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I have seen that kind of love at work. That is the love that lives in Jesus.
As our wonderful friend Father Richard Rohr says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness . . . it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from. It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place. . . The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation—not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans. . . . When Jesus talks about this Oneness … what he more has in mind is a complete, mutual indwelling.” So Fr. Rohr calls the divine love that Jesus taught “Oneness,” which is a reasonable description of how it feels as it grows in you. The love that Jesus taught is a universal love that makes no distinction among people at all.
Here is what the love that Jesus taught is not:
My dear friends, raising your personal consciousness vibration is a deliberate process. It requires that you literally be love, every hour of every day. Some people do it using an Eastern religious practice, but I have found that by far the easiest method is the teachings of Jesus. By far! They work effortlessly, and within months I was seeing everything so differently. When I first began to cultivate Jesus’s genuine love for all of humankind, it felt as if I was losing some of my love for my close family. But instead, my love for everyone in the world was catching up to the way that I love my family members. And one of the first symptoms of this flattening was the moment, perhaps a dozen years ago now, when my husband picked me up at the airport as I was returning from a business trip. And I was feeling so much compassion for him, to think that he had been alone all week, that I spontaneously told him that if he found a lady friend to share dinners with when I was away, you know, darling, I wouldn’t mind. Poor man – he just looked at me funny. But that is what developing universal love can do.
My two great youthful heroes were both radical ministers, and they continue to inspire me to this day. As I think of it now, each gives to us an extraordinary example of what it is to have built your spiritual house on a solid rock constructed of the teachings of Jesus. And then, perhaps inevitably, each was martyred in the spiritual house that He had built on that rock:
You and I follow Jesus in the wake of giants. And now I realize of course that there can be no more ideal examples than these two amazing young men of people whose houses were built on the rock of the universal love that Jesus taught. And they lived at two of the worst moments in history, when Nazi Germany and the racist American South washed away so very many whose spiritual houses had been built upon shifting sand! So, yes, dear Jesus and Thomas, we can make a whole blog post out of your suggestion. And we likely can make a Core Teaching of it, too.
Both Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. had only set out to live decent lives. They were not asking for trouble. As Dr. King said, “Like anyone, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place.” Most of the other people who were alive where and when they each lived their lives had built their spiritual houses on the unsteady sands of no solid principles, so when the Nazis and the haters came, those others had no rock beneath the houses they had built, and as the troubles rolled in for their respective generations, those troubles washed most of those others away. But the few who had built their houses on the immovable rock of the love that Jesus taught stood strong! My heroes did not enjoy being heroes. Watch Dr. King’s face in those old clips. He was never exultant. Never glad to make history. And I don’t know that I ever have seen a picture of Dr. Bonhoeffer wearing more than a half-smile that never reached his eyes. But living where and when each of them lived, there on that solid rock with Jesus, they did what they knew they had to do. They could have done no other.
And it is first now that I feel that I really begin to understand this teaching by Jesus. It is no trivial thing! To build our house upon the solid rock of the love that Jesus taught means loving enough to fight for the right with your whole being, and to love the least of these people with your whole heart and as if nothing else matters. I have just read that Dr. Bonhoeffer’s death was likely not by hanging but under torture. And Dr. King was hounded by the despicable J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, who tried to ruin Dr. King’s reputation even long after his death. But even if they could have known their futures, neither of my heroes would have deviated from his course for a moment.
To love as Jesus loves is to love as Dietrich Bonhoeffer loved, and as Martin Luther King, Jr. loved. Or else to miss out on the love that matters, which means to never really love at all.
Though I am just a man,
When you are by my side,
With the help of God
I know I can be strong,
To make this land our home.
If I must fight, I’ll fight
To make this land our own.
Until I die, this land is mine.
– Pat Boone, from “The Exodus Song” (1960)
Postscript: All the photos but the first were taken in Jesus’s earthly homeland.