Who is Jesus Christ? Teacher? Friend? Elder Brother? Savior? Messiah? Religious Revolutionary? Mystic?
For centuries, people of all races and creeds have tried to define Jesus and His role in history. Many Christians proclaim Him to be God incarnate and the one and only savior of the world. Others see Him as a great teacher, prophet, and leader-one who truly lived the principles He set forth.
In Unity, there are probably as many different personal ideas about Jesus as there are Unity people. Although we may never reach complete agreement about Jesus, there is an important point of agreement for everyone: Jesus gave us an invaluable gift-teachings that are simple, plain, and perhaps most important, livable. Through these teachings, He gave us new hope, new ideas about loving, new ways of living, and new ways of thinking.
Where others saw darkness and sin, Jesus saw light and hope. When others judged and condemned, Jesus forgave. When others walked away in self-righteous indignation, Jesus showed compassion and understanding. When others voiced their hate, Jesus radiated love.
Even today, through His words of so many years ago, Jesus reaches out to our hearts with hope and understanding, with peace and forgiveness. He reaches us with the teachings and the principles of God and shows us the way to live in love and happiness.
Although Unity’s understanding of Jesus differs from mainstream Christian thought, the entire Unity philosophy is based upon the message of Jesus; the teachings of Jesus; the humanity, as well as the heart and soul, of Jesus.
Jesus, the Man
Scholars seem to be in agreement that a man named Jesus actually lived in Judea and that He preached, gathered a group of followers, and was executed. After His death, Jesus’ followers, who had abandoned Him upon his arrest and crucifixion, suddenly began proclaiming that He had returned from death-that, in fact, they still felt His presence among them. This small group began to grow-first among the Jews, but soon among the entire population of the Roman Empire.
If anything can be said with certainty, it is that the life Jesus lived and the ideas He taught-indeed, the person He was-had a power which transcended His death. This power caused people to question their most basic assumptions about God and about their lives.
What was it about Jesus the man that could have inspired such profound change? Was it a unique quality? Or did Jesus simply express something transcendent and eternal that lies within us all?
In order to find an answer, we need to understand His distinctly different roles: Jesus, Jesus Christ, and the Christ.
Understanding the Christ
In Unity, we believe that God’s thought of humankind is perfect, just as we believe that God is perfect. This idea of humankind in the mind of God is what Unity calls “the Christ.”
The Christ is the presence of God within us all. The apostle Paul wrote: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). The term the Christ does not refer exclusively to Jesus nor to any person. The Christ is that spark of divinity within all people, regardless of where they may be on their spiritual journeys.
A noted Unity minister, Eric Butterworth, wrote: “Christ in you is your hope of glory, for it is that of you that is of God and is God being projected into visibility as you. Christ in you is your own spiritual unity with the Infinite, the key to your health and success.”
Jesus Christ, the Perfect Human Being
The Christ is what God “sees” when God looks at a human being. God, being perfect, can only see the perfection that humans are, for we are created in the image of God.
Yet the Christ is more-for the Christ abides in each person as potential perfection. When Jesus the man came to the understanding of His own Christ spirit, He became Jesus Christ. At this point, He was fully aware of the Christ presence within Himself and within all people.
Through Jesus’ expression of the Christ, He brought us the understanding that we, too, can give expression to the indwelling Christ presence. When we are totally loving, giving, accepting, and forgiving of others, we find that we, too, are expressing the Christ presence within ourselves.
Jesus is our Way-Shower. He showed us that change, real change, takes place in the heart and mind of a person and that to change our outer world, we must first change our ways of thinking and feeling.
When we look at the events and people in our world in a different light-through eyes of love, understanding, appreciation, and compassion-we perceive the changes we would like to see take place in our world.
Jesus also showed us how to live the abundant life. He showed us how to love one another, how to be healed, how to be prosperous, how to get along with our enemies, and how to experience the fullness of life in all its aspects.
Jesus showed us how to pray, how to make contact with the divine presence within us, and how to use the spiritual principles that govern our universe. He showed us that God is not something to be thought of as far away and removed from our everyday lives, but that God is within us, expressing life as us!
Nothing seems more devastating to the human soul than the feeling of separation from its Creator. Jesus showed us that we cannot be separate from God, because God is everywhere present. We cannot be where God is not.
Lessons From Jesus
Jesus’ birth, trial, crucifixion, and resurrection are events that have significant meaning for us as we seek to live fuller, more meaningful lives. In them, we begin to see our own potential for reaching the fullness of spiritual understanding that Jesus did.
The birth of Jesus was marked by the humility of a stable, the awareness of shepherds, the wisdom of Wise Men, the mystery of a star, and the magnificence of angels.
Though none of us has been born under the circumstances of Jesus’ birth, we have all been born with the attributes of humility; kindness; gentleness; wisdom; and, yes, even some mystery and magnificence. And every day, we are reborn-born into a new world filled with choices and decisions.
As we live our lives, we find that we also experience trials. Who has not experienced a trial? Have we not felt judged unfairly by a family member, a peer, or a stranger? Have our friends not seemingly forsaken us or denied us? Have we not had to stand alone for what we felt was right and true?
What happened to Jesus happens to each of us. Jesus, however, demonstrated that by understanding spiritual principles, we can see things from a new perspective. The Christ presence within gives us the strength, the courage, and the determination to do what we must do in the face of adversity.
After the trial of Jesus came the crucifixion. After we experience a trial, we may feel that a part of us dies. Through the Crucifixion, Jesus showed us that as we are willing to give up our perception of what we think we are for the realization that God is present in every situation and every person, we achieve more than we could ever dream possible.
Death and Resurrection
The moment of Jesus’ death represents the opening of the door of humankind’s consciousness to spiritual understanding. Just as the curtain was torn in the Temple, the barrier-any barrier-between God and humanity was torn away so that every person can freely enter the “holy of holies.” Jesus showed us that nothing separates us from God, that God exists not only in the temples in which we worship, but in the temple of the human heart, the human mind, the human awareness.
After the trial and the crucifixion came the Resurrection.
Jesus the man could not have accomplished resurrection. It was Jesus Christ – the embodiment of the divine idea of humanity in the mind of God – that was able to rise above physical death. It was the Christ presence that compelled this ultimate expression of divine love and understanding.
Jesus completely realized His oneness with God. He understood that there was no separation between God and Himself, that because God is eternal life, He (Jesus) could demonstrate eternal life.
How many of us have been resurrected physically or even expect to be? Yet, many of us have gone through personal trials and “crucifixions” and have risen to new understandings, to new lives.
Have we not all realized a resurrection experience simply in overcoming the challenges that face us? We do not have to die physically to experience resurrection; we need only to realize our oneness with God, to allow the Christ presence within us to raise us to new levels of spiritual understanding and insight.
Making God Personal
These ideas of “Jesus,” “the Christ,” and “Jesus Christ” may be new for some of us, because we have been taught to believe only things we can see, touch, taste, smell, and hear.
The eternal-the invisible things of Spirit-must be understood spiritually, however, with the eyes and ears and hands of faith.
Was Jesus Christ the true Son of God? Yes. And you, too, are a son of God, friend! There is only one idea of humanity in the mind of God, and while Jesus Christ fully demonstrated this idea-the idea of the perfect union of the physical person with the spiritual person-each of us has that same potential.
A Unity minister wrote, “If we really seek to see the kind of person Jesus Christ is, then we can discover what God is like; and this means we can discover what each one of us really is like.” Truly, the possibility is embedded in our potential.
Although we may not all agree about Jesus, we can agree that He came to teach us, to show us the way. He came to show us that we, too, can have life and have it abundantly in this lifetime and beyond. He came to show us a way that can bring peace to our own hearts and peace to the world. “Not my will but yours be done” (Lk. 22:42), He said. Are we listening?