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It has been said that Jesus was as much God as if he were not man at all, and as much man as if he were not God at all. This is what the church doctrine of the “Trinity” is trying to express – God in 3 persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit”. Jesus was a man, but he was also a form of God. While Christianity was ultimately dominated by those who believed that only Jesus and the Holy Spirit were forms of God; many early Christians believed that, just like Jesus, we all are forms of God. In other words, what the Bible says about Jesus can also be said about us. Sacraments and Incarnations One way to express this is to use sacramental language. Christianity has always emphasized how God can be present in physical things, like water, bread and wine. The church calls these special entities sacraments. To the church, Jesus was the ultimate sacrament. But the great mystics of all religions, including Jesus, seem to teach that the whole universe, along with every human being, is as much a sacrament as Jesus was. The ancient idea of reincarnation can also be understood in this way. In this understanding of reincarnation, it’s not individual humans who keep reincarnating as new individual humans, it’s God who keeps reincarnating as new individual humans. At our deepest level, we are all various incarnations of God. What Really Dies? The idea that we are all sacraments or incarnations of God has important ramifications for life after death. To the degree that we can see ourselves as sacraments or incarnations of God, we never really die, only our bodies die. Most of us only identify with what some call our ego or small self, which is temporary and dies along with our body. Our larger, divine self is eternal. It never dies, because God never dies, and that is who we really are. Jesus seems to have taught that when we begin to identify with our higher, divine self, we "pass from death into life". We experience "eternal life" now. To realize this, he taught that we must grow beyond our small, ego dominated self. Buddha was teaching the same idea when he taught there is no self. It’s just an illusion we need to “wake up” from. Bottom line, all of our stories have a happy ending. Death does not separate us from God, because, ultimately, God is all there is, and God is who we are. The Ultimate Basis for Love The fact that we are all incarnations of God, also, has important ramifications for ideas related to judging and hurting others. Jesus, along with Buddha and many others, understood that knowing who we really are helps us, not only fear death less, but also love each other more. If we are all different expressions of God, then you and I are ultimately the same person. In other words, there are billions of versions of you. I am one version of you. Why would you want to hurt a version of yourself? This idea of universal oneness is the primary basis for love and compassion. What about Hell? Finally, the idea that God is experiencing physical existence through us, and that we are all expressions of God, has important ramifications for ideas related to hell. It doesn’t make sense for God to have created a world in which some expressions of God would remain in darkness and pain forever. If everything is ultimately an expression of a loving and gracious God, then everything is ultimately loving and gracious. Creation itself is an act of love and generosity - not a test that some expressions of God will pass while other expressions will fail; resulting in a divided God – one in heaven and one in hell. Sin Where does that leave the concept of “sin”? Sin is brokenness that needs healing – not a crime that needs retribution. Sinners are blind people who need to be enlightened - not criminals who need to be punished. Jesus died at the hands of blind and broken people, but he loved them and forgave them, praying, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” In other words, Jesus did not come to punish us; or be punished by God in our place. He came to enlighten us regarding who we are and the hope and “good news” that naturally flows from that understanding. Actually, it’s this failure to understand who we are, that leads to “hell” on earth. We take our individuality to an extreme, and become addicted to selfish pleasures. In our self-centered isolation, we lose our compassion for others and become cold and greedy. Realizing who and what we are is the ultimate path to freedom and peace. Dying to self and living as one with God and each other, is the only way to turn “hell” into “heaven”. Hopefully, our species is evolving in that direction. The Heart of Jesus’ Message So what was the primary message and mission of Jesus? Many early Christians believed it was to help all of us re-discover our divinity. An early Christian hymn, quoted in Philippians 2:6, describes an "emptying" that takes place when God becomes human. It says of Jesus, “Although he existed in the form of God…he emptied himself...” This “emptying” temporarily limits our knowledge and experience of being God. Thus the Bible has Jesus asking God from the cross, "Why have you forsaken me?" The deepest need of every person is to recover from their amnesia and realize we are all expressions and incarnations of God. Discovering who we really are is the key to personal and universal well being. This seems to be the primary message of Jesus, Buddha, and other renowned spiritual leaders. It’s what religious historians have called the “Perennial Philosophy” – the common thread running through most religions. Individuality Is Real This is not suggesting that our individuality is not real. Like Jesus, even after our bodies die, our individuality seems to continue existing in some mysterious, non-physical way. Others may even experience our presence from time to time, as many seem to have experienced Jesus’ presence, both immediately following his death and still today. In a sense, God is both singular and plural, both one and many. God exists as both a single entity and billions of individuals at the same time. Eastern religions describe this as “non-dual reality”. The Sanskrit word is advaita, and it means “not entirely one, but not two either.” In other words, we are both different from God, and the same as God at the same time. We are as much human as if he were not God at all, and as much God as if he were not human at all. John Alan Shope

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1 Dineen Carta = "John, this is the most well-written description of how my experience of spirituality, myself, others and God has been.  I am so happy you posted this here on deily.  I am sharing this on facebook to reach an even larger audience. Your words are freeing and could liberate many."
2 John Alan Shope = "Thank you, Dineen, for your kind words. I recently published a book of poetry and meditations similar to this. I would be happy to send you a copy. "
3 Misty Bowman = "What happens when one takes a drop of water from the ocean? The ocean becomes the drop. And when the drop returns to the ocean? The drop becomes the ocean. God is the ocean. God is also the drop. God is life. God is everything. God is nothing. God is the culmination of everything that is, was or will be. Everything alive carries a drop of God. Everything dead has an imprint of God's presence. God's fingerprint is on every atom and molecule in existence."
4 John Alan Shope = "I like your analogy. "