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The Religion of Jesus PART 7: His Key Characteristics

Continuing from Part 6.

Taken together, we see a picture of Jesus involving certain key characteristics:

  • Jesus kept himself remarkably separated from the mayhem and issues of his day. Never does he get political or seek political solutions.

  • He was deeply devoted to his friends and tended to their practical needs. He makes sure they get enough rest, for example.

  • Jesus protected his privacy, to the point of living outside Roman control (only Judea was under direct Roman control during this time), hiding, and sneaking in and out of places. He was careful to stay “under the radar.”

  • He often preferred to be alone, surrounded by the natural world. He clearly found it best to seek the most complete individualism – being the only person – when praying and/or communing with himself[1]We see something very similar in the passages where he tells people not to pray in public, but rather to shut themselves in their closets and pray. (Matthew 6.) .

  • Jesus sought people out to help them, going to the places where they chose to be. He didn’t command that they chase after him. They went to synagogues to find spiritual meaning, and so he met them there. They went to work camps to get income and/or food for their families, and so he met them there.

  • He continually told people good things – the amazing opportunity that stood in front of them – and did not go on about how bad the world was and how everyone but him was wrong. When he says “good news” (aka, “gospel”) the words he used truly meant “good news.” And he really meant it. He was happy about this news and intended for his listeners to be happy about it as well.

  • A fundamental component of Jesus’ character (and of his beliefs) was compassion. “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest,” was no aberration. His feelings for others were deep and frequently overflowing. His level of compassion may have been the most unique of his characteristics.

The Inner Workings Of Jesus

The points noted above, and the last point especially, give us a good understanding of who Jesus was on the inside.

Those of us who have been moved by the gospels were not moved by doctrinal arguments, by promises of miraculous power, or by words of consolation: We wanted to embrace Jesus himself. It was the essence of this pure, kind, brave, and wise being that we responded to with love and admiration.

Jesus was an open doorway to the pure, the good and the elevated. And not an ‘elevated’ that requires strain, fear, threats or self-disgust of any kind. Never, in any of our records did Jesus tell someone to “obey.” Nor did he praise “obedience.” His mind – his inner workings – simply didn’t operate that way. Nor did Jesus ever say “thou shalt not,” or anything like it, save in the compendium of sayings in Matthew 5 (and even this is a bit of a stretch), which is in the vein of “You’ve heard it said, but I say.”

So, inside Jesus’ mind, laws, rules and forcing one’s self to do the right thing, were non-players. He focused on what he was (and by extension what others were and were capable of being), not forcing himself to obey. In other words, he followed his own, internal standards, and intended that we should learn to do the same.

However much it clashes with the doctrines of the churches, this is how Jesus operated. It’s up to us to decide which we prefer.

I’ll close here with a passage from my newsletter issue on The Lost Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth. (FMP #44.) This is how I imagine Jesus would describe his philosophy in our modern era. And it reflects the mentality noted above.

Being by nature self-referential, you judge yourself every time you act. Treating others as you wish to be treated, you define yourself as a benefit in the world. Treating others in ways you wouldn’t like, you define yourself as a hazard. There is no escape from this arrangement, though men attempt it by ceding their will to others, as when following rules.

Obedience to a rule, however, displaces self-reference, which is what produces all the joy, goodness, and creativity in the world. However much you lay your will at the feet of a rule, you rob yourself and others of that much happiness. Obeying the rule, you place your will in the service of an inferior morality and contribute to the darkening of mankind.

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References   [ + ]

1. We see something very similar in the passages where he tells people not to pray in public, but rather to shut themselves in their closets and pray. (Matthew 6.)
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