I believe we are all children of God.
However we know God or don’t, however we know Jesus or don’t, whatever denomination or religion we belong to or don’t, whatever language or symbols we use, culture we live in or society we participate in or don’t, we are all children of God.
However we name it, describe it or label it, we are all part of the same source, connected by the fabric of life and death. Me, personally, I’m going to call that source God and we are God’s children. All of us.
While it’s fundamental to me, there are many that don’t agree. Or, at least, feel the need to qualify what it means to be a child of God. The bible, after all, seems to back that up. But hear me out.
I also believe that we’re inherently good (it’s our default setting, if you like) because we are “created in the image of God,” to use the biblical framework from Genesis. Or, another way of saying that might be that we’re made from, and in, love. That’s still biblical, in my mind, but maybe not in everyone’s. Each of our journeys in life is unique and it’s the experience of that journey that helps to form our behaviour and our understanding of who and how we are.
I believe that there is one God, but there are many ways to come to that God. Again, we may use different language, both religious and not at all, but there are many pathways to God and we, unique and individual as we are, travel our own way. Sure, we might get lost, take a wrong turn or get stalled at the side of the road, but we have companions on our journey. Some of those companions are each other, some are inspiring examples we look up to (heroes, in the classical sense). And, for me, Jesus.
I believe that religion is a human construct, an institution we created to put form and structure around what we believe so that we might better understand it and be able to live it and share it in our lives. Of course, that hasn’t always been the case. Sometimes religion has been, and is, used to manipulate, control and oppress. But I’d then ask if it was truly “religion” by the preceding description, or a cult or simply a means to manipulate, control and oppress people. In other words, true religion would be constantly growing, evolving and engaging as the people who seek its understanding do. The divine is at the heart of it and maybe even inspires it, but we build our own structures.
Roger Wolsey, author of ‘Kissing Fish: Christianity for people who don’t like Christianity,’ describes the variety of religions with a metaphor that goes something like this. We’re all thirsting for some more. So each religion is like a well. Wherever and however you dig the well, the deeper you go into each well/religion, “you’ll eventually hit the same aquifer and Source.”
So, there it is. I also believe that we all come from God and we all return to God. We come from the same source and we are seeking, in our life journey, to return to that source.
But because we travel our own journeys, create our own religions and build communities of faith around them, we constantly seek ways to define our uniqueness. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s confining, but still, not that bad.
But it sure can be when defining things for ourselves becomes a way to create exclusivity and set us apart from others, when building systems and structures leads us to build walls and believe that our way is the only way. It sure can be when we impose our system on others, demean their beliefs and demonize their religion.
See, I also believe that when John’s gospel says that Jesus told the disciples “I am the way … no one comes to God but through me” he didn’t mean only me, Jesus. It’s very likely that the very human person who wrote this down is telling the story this way because they think that. After all, it was the early days of the Christian community. They were being persecuted and they were struggling to share their message and expand their community. They might have felt the need to believe their’s was the one way.
But I think that Jesus meant that his life was the way, his life of love, compassion and grace. That’s what is true and life-giving. That doesn’t have to be exclusive to Jesus. And I don’t think for a minute that Jesus would want it to be. It should be for all God’s children. And that’s everyone.
It’s also likely that same very human person - or persons - wrote the epistles of John, the first of which refers to the children of God as being set apart from the world and distinguishes between the children of God and the children of the devil. The devil’s a conversation for another time, but again, I want to understand the context and appreciate the author felt the need to reinforce the uniqueness of the message of living what is good and right, but it is, nonetheless, creating an exclusivity that I can’t reconcile with the Jesus I know. The Jesus who said others would know his followers by their love. Or, for that matter, the God who is in all things, however we judge them to be good or bad.
Perhaps if we could begin with respecting each other as all children of God, acknowledging the diversity of those children and respecting the many paths we find to God, perhaps then we might build relationships that connect us, rather than walls that divide us.