“Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God’s compassionate love for others.” Clare of Assisi
My husband is taking a class in comparative religion. I am reading along with him, helping him out a bit, and have enjoyed the class immensely. I have studied religion here and there in my lifetime, but only what interested me, not as a targeted study of the world’s religions. I have learned a lot, and the conclusion I am forming is that many of the world’s religions are variations on similar themes. Some are monotheistic, some polytheistic, some without a central supreme figure devotees worship, and some are more balanced and realistic than others.
Clare of Assisi was an Italian nun who lived during the 13th century and considered a saint in the Catholic church. She was one of Saint Francis of Assisi’s first followers. The above quote of hers is timeless, referring to the subtle difference between mere outward mimicry of Christ and true inward transformation. Outward expressions of Christianity, or any religion for that matter, without inward transformation, is meaningless.
I was raised in a somewhat liberal church, spent quite a few of my adult years within Charismatic Christianity, and finally landed outside of organized religion. Some may call my beliefs New Age. I prefer to think of my beliefs as a spiritual journey without the need for a label. So, given my experiences within Christianity and recent studies of other religions, what have I learned? I have learned no religion has the answers to life’s questions, yet devout followers are willing to kill and be killed in defense of their beliefs. And, by killing, I do not mean killing only the body. In the name of God, people are willing to kill relationships in defense of their beliefs.
What are beliefs? Beliefs are mental representations of the way we think the world should be, it’s the brain’s way of making sense of the world. Belief is not the same as knowledge but many think religious belief is synonymous with knowledge, which is not the case. Beliefs are important because beliefs drive behavior. If we believe killing is wrong, we judge those who kill, pass laws protecting society at large from killers, and have consequences for killing. But it is not so easy as that, is it? Isn’t some killing justified? Many believe it is.
If belief is not proven by facts, why do we destroy relationships with others because we believe we are right and others are wrong? It’s a valid question. If we had solid, unequivocal proof that we are right we might have a leg to stand on, otherwise, tolerance and agreeing to disagree may be the more reasonable approach.
Much of the societal and civil unrest in our world today is based on beliefs, not facts. Many Christians judge and condemn the beliefs and behaviors of others based on what is written in the Bible, yet there is no proof the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, as many believe. Can we prove revelation knowledge was given to Paul, John, or Peter? No, but we can believe revelation knowledge was given. See the difference? Many of the world’s religions believe revelation knowledge was given to their leaders. No one can prove it’s validity one way or the other. What we can do is listen to the thoughts and beliefs of others, agree to disagree if necessary, and continue to uplift and love one another.
If Christianity is your thing, allow your beliefs to transform your thoughts, words, and deeds, then outwardly live your beliefs reflecting the inward transformation. Any spiritual beliefs we choose to embrace must be lived from a heart of love…..