Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Jesus' ministry was one of reconciling every person to the 'Source of All' by bringing into their awareness that 'God is Love'. He did this because he saw Love as the 'true reality and being' we are all called to.
He spoke in the context of Jewish culture, history, and expectations - for he was a Jew speaking to Jewish people; so how else would we expect him to reach his listeners. Even so, his example and being went on to influence the entire world. His self-identification with God was a natural result of the over-powering union and awareness he felt with the Source of life in the Universe. As such, his words as recorded in the Bible are really similar in tone to many other mystics who have lived throughout the ages and experienced that same reality. Jesus held out the hope that his followers would also self-identify with God and do even more godly works than he did.
His message of equating God to Love was so refreshing to his Jewish followers and listeners - after they had spent a lifetime of adhering to strict Jewish codes of conduct enforced by human religious leaders. The Love aspect of these Jewish religious leaders' message got lost. Sadly, the same happens in our day when our "religious leaders" boil down this message of eternal Love to mere biblical rules; advices that were uttered by wise men long ago who were trying to guide people into how they might manifest this universal Love in the context of their time and culture. But, what does this eternal Love say to us in the context of our time? This is the ultimate question that a modern follower of Jesus' way of Love needs to ask.
For those Friends (and others) who do not get liberal Quakerism's refusal to focus exclusively on the person of Jesus, it is simple: The depth of Jesus' message was that the true reality and Source of life is a living Love that is manifested in this world as Light; a message so much more encompassing and eternal than the historical Jesus. Jesus knew this - even if many of his followers did not and still do not.
And so it is that labels given to people such as "Christian", "Buddhist", "Universalist", "Deist", "Non-Deist", "Atheist", "Agnostic", "Evangelical", "Taoist", and on and on - are inconsequential to many, if not most liberal Quakers who place their hearts and minds in that eternal reality preached by Jesus all those years ago: Love, Love, Love, in all its manifestations and applications so that Light may shine and reign within us all.
Thank you, Howard.