by Ralph Calabria
Executive Editor DMC
Okay, I admit it. I am a little torqued about this topic, as the title shows. The idea that belief solves everything immobilizes too many Christians and lulls them into a false sense of security. If my tone sounds harsh, it’s because soft words won’t wake those enjoying the sleep of this comforting dogma. Sometimes only a cannon will do.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. Among other tall tasks, he tells us we must “be ye therefore perfect.” Jesus would not have given us this command if he didn’t think we are all capable of achieving it and that, furthermore, it is each soul’s destiny to achieve it.
In my previous blog I discussed what happens when we succeed in fulfilling this directive. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out”(Revelation 3:12). In other words, after many lives, the soul no longer has to recycle back to earth. It goes “no more out” into the physical realm. Harsh lessons that can only be learned in the physical realm conquered, the soul lives on in the spiritual realms, the “temple of my God,” where it continues its evolution with subtler, more advanced lessons.
Contrast this view with the standard Christian paradigm. Protestants assert that you must be saved, using this verse as the basis: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” (Acts 16:31). All one has to do is believe. Catholics say salvation is through the Church. All one has to do is attend Mass and take the sacraments.
Both groups say it’s a case of either eternal reward after one lifetime—heaven, or eternal punishment after one lifetime – hell. (Catholics do prevaricate a little with their concept of purgatory.) Neither advocate the need for perfection, and neither give any indication of growth or change in the afterlife. After one lifetime of minimal effort, one is done changing for eternity?
How could this be, when we see evidence all around us that change is the only constant in the Universe!
I will admit something else. I, too, have been guilty of belief with no action. For months I told my wife I would fix the cabinet door. I believed I could fix it. Finally I bought the hardware. For three weeks I still believed I could fix it, but still didn’t do it. Belief didn’t comfort my wife; she was still annoyed, just as I feel the Divine is with us.
Finally I TOOK ACTION. The cabinet door is now fixed and my wife said, “Oh, very good!”
As I wrote in my last blog, “perfection in one lifetime is not a fair or reasonable expectation. Jesus knew we could not complete this colossal spiritual assignment in one lifetime, so we are given many opportunities to achieve perfection through the process of reincarnation.”
The need for action (inner and outer) is a major paradigm shift for Christians who are frozen in just believing. Inner action is prayer and meditation. Outer action is service to others. Without action, you will sit in a kind of religious stasis, making very little progress over the course of one lifetime in understanding who you are and why you are here. Very little progress over one lifetime probably leads to recycling into another lifetime to continue your spiritual growth.
We must work hard to carry out Jesus’ expectations of us. To say, “I believe” but do little else is sheer laziness. Jesus is very willing to help but he won’t do everything. That would amount to insulting the innate divinity that lives within each of us. St. Paul advises, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12). Even with your fear, you must do your part! Just as I feared my wife, if I didn’t fix the cabinet door!
Is Jesus unreasonable? Is he the only divine messenger who expect disciples to make a supreme effort? No, Jesus is in agreement with other messengers. For example, the Buddha’s last words (543BC) were: “Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.”
From today onwards, aspire to meet Jesus’ high expectation. It’s never too early or late to act. No spiritual effort is ever wasted! Indeed, your spiritual development is all you take with you when you leave this world.