Thursday, December 9, 2010

Allegory in Matthew 24

The American Heritage Dictionary defines allegory as “The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.”  Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic example of allegory.  And for some time now, I have found the allegorical or symbolic approach to Bible interpretation to be increasingly enlightening. 

I find value in the way that Unity churches study the Bible as history and allegory and interpret it as a metaphysical representation of humankind's evolutionary journey toward spiritual awakening.  The Bible is seen as a story about the spiritual life right now, and the characters in the Bible represent ideas in one’s own mind. 
The following quote demonstrates the use of allegory in another faith tradition: "There is a classical example in Tao quoted by Metzner, Ralph, Opening to Inner Light (© 1986 Jeremy Tarcher, Inc.) called the 10 Ox Herding by Kaku-an, 12th century Zen illustrator. It is an analogy or metaphor of a man looking for an ox by following its tracks. He finds the animal, tames it, and brings it inside his barn. The animal symbolically represents human’s raw or beastly emotions, feelings and impulses. Riding the animal represents taming the human emotions, impulses, feelings, etc., or the beast within every human. Clearly, this is an inward journey to develop self-control."  (The remainder of this article can be read here.)

So, from an allegorical perspective, I have come to view the Bible as the story of an inward journey of transformation in which the characters portrayed represent aspects of our own selves, some of which we have projected outwardly and personified. For example, principalities, nations, and kingdoms can be seen as facets of our personalities that hold sway over us and control us - sometimes against our (conscious) will.  Scripture also terms these forces that we are unaware of but that actually govern many of our actions as “the hidden things of darkness,” and promises they will all be brought to light.

Matthew 24
With that in mind, I’d like to take an allegorical look into Matthew 24 and the “end of the world.”  I’ve found in this wonderful passage a great pictorial view of the death to self (the beast inside) that must take place in all of us if we are to be transformed.

You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars.  You will begin to experience turmoil and wars within yourselves as the different aspects of your natures begin to battle.  Don’t be troubled!  These things must come to pass - they are necessary for your growth.  But the end is not yet.  Instead, these wars inside are only the beginning of your sorrows (vs. 8), for nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom (vs. 7).  The kingdoms of darkness inside of all of us – all those things that have dominion over you but that you’re not aware of – will war with the kingdom of light.  This will create great turmoil within you, and there will be a great famine (vs.7) inside of you.  As the powers that previously held sway over you are removed, you will feel a great hunger for them because you had learned to depend on them.  There will also be earthquakes in diverse places (v. 7).  Your whole world will be shaken, and you’ll experience this in many different aspects of your life – even to the very core of your being!  

When this gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the world (v 14) – when this good news is heard in every aspect of our selves, all those nations, powers, principalities, and dominions in us – then the end will come! Then you’ll begin to see clearly the abomination that sits in the temple of God, the beast that lives inside all of us that has been sitting on the throne and ruling all of our lives!  When you see this beast, oh, don’t stop for anything then!  Press on and don’t look back (v 16-20)! For now you will face the greatest tribulation you have ever seen (vs.21)!  As a matter of fact, it is so horrendous that no could survive it unless God shortens it and gives us the strength to go through it (v 22). 

And after the tribulation of those days (v29)?  The end comes when the Christ inside of us puts down all other rule, authority and power, and delivers our personal Kingdom to God (I Corin 15:24). When this process is complete and the carnal nature (a.k.a devil, anti-christ, ego) inside of us meets its end, the eagles will gather where the carcass is and all that was “flesh” in us will be eaten by the birds (v 28).  We will see the Christ coming inside of us with power and great glory (v 30)! The tribes of the earth will mourn at this (v 30) – all the earthly things that formerly ruled over us will have cause to grieve, for their power is no more! The sun will be darkened and the moon won’t give her light (v 29) – the things we formerly depended on for illumination and understanding will seem dark in comparison to the rise of the Daystar in our hearts and the illumination that the presence of Christ brings into our lives.   What a glorious picture of the end of the world as we have known it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Law of Relativity

I really wish I was smarter!  I've been trying to understand the Law of Relativity - it's really been gripping me.  I've learned from experience that when I become gripped by something like this,  there is usually something I need to perceive spiritually.  So I've researched many sites on the internet - including those intended for children! -  in an attempt to understand the Law of Relativity and to hear what the Spirit would teach me about it.

I finally came across this video:

Suddenly it clicked and I understood!  Not that I understand the Law of Relativity (it's over my head!).  But I understood the message that the Law of Relativity holds for me.  It's really pretty simple - the place in which a person is standing determines their view of the truth.  It follows that each person has a unique perspective - no two people see things exactly alike!  When this is not understood, it can create problems when relating to others - and especially those of different backgrounds, cultures, and faith structures.  Two people may observe the very same phenomena, but see it from a different perspective or describe it in a different way.  Neither is necessarily wrong, just different. 

Here's an example that illustrates only one of the many ways this can play out in real life.  At one of my former workplaces, two co-workers became engaged in a heated discussion over the order in which documents should be placed in client files.  One maintained that the participant's application should be placed first in the file, the other worker claimed the best position for the application was inarguably last.  I watched as they argued back and forth for a few minutes.  Finally I said, "Girls! what are you arguing about?  You're both saying the same thing - each is just calling it something different.  You're both saying that the application should go on the bottom! "

Now, do different but valid perspectives mean there's no absolute truth?  No, just that any single perspective on truth can very well be partial.  As Scripture says, "we see through a glass darkly..."  But I do think that our different perspectives, if combined, could provide all of us with a larger view of the truth.  And repair many of the divisions among us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

We Are One

A couple of years ago, I had a revelation – I saw that the reason Jesus said to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is because WE ARE ONE - we are all part of one another.  We are a many-membered body, and a man does not want to hurt his own body!  Right there alongside the Golden Rule is “what ye measure out, it shall be measured again unto you.”  So if I try to hurt others, oppress others, gain from others, then I hurt myself, oppress myself, cause myself loss.

With my Baptist background, this was a totally new and very radical thought to me. But by this time I had grown used to the fact that God is a pretty radical God, so I began looking in Scripture for confirmation.  And of course it is there in bountiful measure even though I had not been able to see it until my eyes were opened to it.  First of all, “the Lord our God is ONE Lord” (Duet 6:4).  One means “that which is united as one in contrast to separate parts” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages).  And unity means “the quality or state of not being multiple” (Mer. Web. Online Dictionary). 

The body of Christ is a many-membered body (1Corin. 12:4-27, Eph. 4:25).  “We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another” (Rom. 12:5) There should be no schism in the body, but the members should have the same care for one another (1 Corin. 12:25).  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it, or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it (vs. 26). Yes, there are diversities (1 Corin. 12: 4-5) but it is all the same Spirit that is given to every man (vs. 7).  So, who is my fellow member of the body of Christ?  When we ask that, it’s like asking, “Who is my neighbor?” and Jesus’ answer to that was a Samaritan, a person considered to be totally excluded from the Kingdom of God.  WOW! - my neighbor (whoever he/she is!) is part of the same body of Christ that I am!  We are to love our neighbor as ourselves because our neighbor IS a part of ourselves!  And when I harm my neighbor, it is harming myself, for my neighbor is part of me.  My neighbor may not understand this yet, and may harm me – not realizing that when he does so he injures himself. We are all united – all ONE.  

This means that we are to love one another as we would love our self. No one hates his own flesh!  And we suffer as long as we keep harming others, because what we are doing in actuality is harming our own selves.  When we have hatred, bitterness, and resentment toward others, we will reap that in our own lives and be filled with sorrows until we learn that what we intend for others will come back to us.  Until we learn this, we will suffer.  And this is the lesson that suffering is intended to teach.

 One more insight, for now:  

“…seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:9-11). 

Previously, I looked at these verses as meaning that when “they” all come into Christ, there will be no more divisions.  Now I have seen that it is when “I” shed the old man (a.k.a. carnal mind, ego) and come into renewed knowledge, this is a place where “I” see there ARE no divisions – only unity in diversity.  Where I can look with renewed perspective and see there is no Barbarian, Scythian, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. but that Christ IS all and is IN ALL.   

The ramifications of these insights are enormous and have led me many new places, which I hope to write more about if I can even find words to express the wonder of it.  Although mine has been a journey into a greater knowledge of the Love of God, many will view it as a journey from orthodoxy into heresy.  So be it.  The journey is scary, but onward I must go.  The Lord has torn down my reliance on many commonly-held views and continued to abolish so many traditional assumptions of truth in my life until I felt I stood all alone.  Now, my circle of inclusiveness has been expanded into yet another new place.  A large place that includes all and where I can love all because they are just on a different place on this journey; a place where I can let others be free to be where they are, yet not allow them to tie me in any one place, for I am free to follow.  I must follow, or I will die – for to follow is Life itself. 

 O! Give us grace, Lord, to love one another…  

That they may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us...I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one”
(John 17:21,23)