This morning I began reading Karen Armstrong’s book 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life. It had been on my reading list for too many weeks having been pushed aside in the holiday rush. In reading I came across this quote: “Whether a person is a religious believer or not does not matter much. Far more important is that they are a good human being.” Armstrong then goes on to define “good human being” as one who puts into practice in their daily lives what, in Christianity, is called the Golden Rule. ”Treat others as you would like to be treated.” Anything but exclusive to Christianity, this principle has parallels in most other faith traditions.
I wonder if that is what I am to be about?
To do my part to create good, compassionate human beings?
I grew up in the Christian tradition.
I am a Christian minister.
I have studied Christian scripture and teachings for most of my adult life.
I take what I have learned seriously and do my best to follow the wisdom I find in the teachings of Jesus. Yet, long ago, I abandoned what I had learned as a child that a person must “believe in Jesus in order to be saved.”
(I am not even sure what that phrase means anymore.)
A teaching which then became, for many, the primary goal of the Christian witness – to convert everyone else to Christianity.
A teaching and practice which has had, and continues to have, disastrous consequences.
But abandoning that which I learned as a child also meant abandoning the goal that went with it leaving me to struggle to put into words my understanding of the reason I thought faith/Jesus/God to be important. Maybe Armstrong’s insight points me in the right direction. Maybe my goal should be to do my part to create a place and an opportunity for others to practice being good and compassionate human beings.
Maybe that is enough.
Maybe more than enough.
The primary teachings I follow are the teachings of Jesus.
But that is not the only way and Jesus is not the final goal.
The final goal is this:
In all that we do, we should treat all others as we would wish to be treated.