I’ve developed a three year rule: if you’ve been with someone for three years and still not sure you can commit, answer is no. Not absolute, but after three years, if you’ve been up close and paying attention undefendedly, you’ve seen enough to know a person’s nature.
It’s the same with God.
A mistake we make is thinking that Jesus’ Way is the way to heaven, the way to God’s approval. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus’ way is not a way to something, it’s the way to experience what’s already here. It is the only process by which we can become undefended enough, vulnerable and unself-conscious enough to experience and be convinced of God’s nature—pure connection, unity. Until we know that love without degree is who God is and the basis of our relationship, life will be too scary to stay undefended very long.
Jesus knows the first step to walking his Way is to realign our thinking, open eyes to new possibilities. This summarizes most of his teaching, but most incisively, at the last supper, hours before his death, he tells his friends he has a new commandment: to love each other as he has loved them—that everyone will know them by their love. It’s love that defines us, not intellectual belief, theology, doctrine, ritual: those aspects of religion are either ushering us toward the experience of degreeless love or just in the way.
The early church understood. Their daily lives were characterized by care for each other that reflected their experience of God. Followers in the first three centuries after the crucifixion wrote that “how they love one another” was the “brand” others saw on them, a people with a “divine admixture,” humans mixed with God. The Romans could not extinguish such a church even after three centuries of persecution, so they extinguished it in the fourth century, not by force…by making it their state religion. When power replaced love as the admixture, there was suddenly something to defend, and church lost sight of love.
Degreeless love needs no defense. Defendedness can only see degree. Never the love.