image of God

The Law is abolished and we are One People in Christ Jesus

As we continue our study in the fourth of the Five Powers, Concentration (samādhi), we need to dig deeper into the revelation and wisdom we seek from the Holy Spirit.  As we dig deeper into the mystery, we see the work of Reconciliation that Christ has performed through the Cross and the Shedding of his Precious Blood.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility
— Eph 2:14-16

Christ is our Peace

In the broken duality of the world, there were two types of people in the world, the Children of the Promise and the Children of Wrath.  The Children of the Promise were the descendants of Abraham.  The only way to enter the promise was to be born into the tribe, or to submit oneself to the Law of Moses, given by men and angels (De 4:14; Acts 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2), but Christ put an end to the Law, did away with the Commandments, annulled obligations, and abolished the requirements of the Law, and set us free to live according to the Spirit.

Jesus was crucified for blasphemy (Matt 26:65-66; Mark 14:63-64; Luke 22:71). The Law condemned God to death for blasphemy showing how it had departed from God. So at the crucifixion, the veil of the temple was ripped in two (Matt 27:51). We were exchanged from the  law of Moses and saved by the life Christ taught us to live.  All people are recreated in Christ into one people. 

Through this mystery, we see that there are no real differences between people.  The only differences that exist are the ones we pretend are there.  Our imagination can make these seem and feel real, but they are illusions we create to preserve our sense of separateness, and often superiority.

As we learn to see the One Christ that holds all things together, we learn to see how the suffering of others is our suffering.  Another person's pain is our pain, and their healing is our healing.

We are the body of Christ.  It is our mission and duty to work out this reconciliation in the world and to be a constant voice for peace.

Peace is the Central act of the Christian life.

Christ restored us to live as the Image of God in this world.  He made peace between us and God.  We continue this work by first making peace with ourselves, and then with our neighbors.

We experience this mystery through meditation, where we enter the peace of God at the Gate of Zion.  This peace is the root of compassion for ourselves and others.

As we live our lives, we must learn to allow the voice of Christ to speak through us.  The voice of Christ is peace and compassion.  Everything that goes against peace and compassion eclipses the Light of God, and becomes a stumbling block.

Concentration (samādhi) is the strength to stand against this darkness.  We develop concentration through meditation and mindfulness.  The more we keep the realities and facts of life before us, the more we will see the pains and problems that are the real roots of the situations we face in life.  We must develop a mindful awareness of the circumstances others live within.  Once we understand the pain at the root of the problem, we can begin to develop a salve for the issue.

The Way of Humility is living as the Image of God, an Ambassador of Zion

As we continue our study on Humility, it is time for us to go back to our definition again: "Occupy a rightful space, neither too much nor too little. Focus neither on your own virtues nor the faults of others (Alan Morinis. Everyday Holiness: The Jewish Spiritual Path of Mussar p. 45.)."  This brings up the question:

What is our Rightful Place?

I have evoked that we are created in the Image of God, The Tzelem Elohim, so the question is, what does that mean?  To discover the answer we need to look at 2 versions of the same passage:

What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,
— Psalm 8:4-6 (NAS)
But one has testified somewhere, saying, “WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM? OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM? “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS; YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR, AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.” For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
— Hebrews 2:6-8 (NAS)

Did you notice the difference? 

Are we made lower than God or the Angels?

The answer is both, sort of.  Let me explain.

In the Psalm, the Hebrew word used is Elohim (God), and in the Letter to the Hebrews, the Greek word used is Aggelos (Angel).  Is this a contradiction or a mistranslation?  The answer is tricky, but kind of neither.

I am not familiar with another word in another language that has a meaning like Elohim.

Elohim means God in Fullness, all the energies of God, and every one and thing that participates within the Divine Nature.  It incorporates Yesh (God as the Ground of Being) and Ayin (The Nothingness of God), as well as the Heavenly Host (The Angels and Saints) and often the Just who are still living in this world who act according with the energies of God (Psalm 82:6; John 10:34).

The author of Hebrews uses the translation of Angels to highlight the argument he is making.  It is not a mistranslation, but it focuses on a part of the meaning rather than the whole.

What does it mean to be made a little lower than Elohim?

First of all, it means that we were made with Free Will.  Our nature is not forced to submit to a will that is not our own.  Since we can choose our actions, we can align ourselves with justice or injustice.

It also means we do not have an exact copy of the Yesh (Being) and Ayin (Emptiness) of God in our nature.  Instead, we have:

  • a Yetzer ha-tov, a shadow of the Ayin (Emptiness) of God.  This is our inclination toward unity, and it is often an inclination toward good.
  • a Yetzer ha-ra, a shadow of the Yesh (Being) of God.  This is our inclination toward individuality and separateness, and it is often an inclination toward evil.

I use the word often because neither of these inclinations are purely good or evil, and that is what makes them hard to navigate in between.

Our spirit is a trinity just like God, we have a Nashamah, a Ruach, and a Nefesh.  I just wanted to mention that now, I will go into more detail about that later.  Sorry about that, but I don't have enough time to go into that in this post.

Humility is the path between our two sides

True Humility is learning to live our lives as the Images of God that we are by walking carefully between these two sides of ourselves.  We have, in fact, been talking about this all along.

The Yetzer ha-tov of Humility is self-effacement.  The Yetzer ha-ra of humility is Arrogance.  Like with everything in the life of the Spirit, we need to learn to walk the middle path.

Armed with this knowledge, we now have the tools to determine our individual level of Humility in each and every circumstance we find ourselves.  Ask yourself:

  • Am I conforming too much? 
  • Have I submitted myself too much to the authority of others?
  • Have I allowed someone or something else to take up more space than it rightfully should?
  • Am I standing out too much?
  • Am I being to obstinate, forcing my will on others in a way that I have no right to do?
  • Am I taking up more space than I have any right to?
  • Am I taking up so much space I have left no space for others?
  • Have I allowed my opinions or comfort to blind myself to the needs of others that I should pay attention to?

These are only some of the questions we could ask.  Once we learn to question our inclinations to unity, conformity, individuality, and separateness, we can properly discern our rightful place, and develop a just and balanced sense of humility in ourselves.

May we all learn to walk this middle path.

The Path of Humility is to Love our Neighbor as Ourself

Yesterday was an interesting meditation on Humility in and of itself.  It feels like everything that happened was either an example of arrogance or self-effacement.  I saw it in my own actions, and those around me.

Arrogance and self-effacement feel like they are two of the cardinal errors gripping our world today.  They touch and taint everything, and nearly everyone.  Every time I watch the news I see another example of them in the media, often with disastrous effect.

I wonder where this comes from?  It obviously didn't happen overnight.

Sorrow grips me as I write this.  I want to weep for the state of the world, but I know that it has always been a mess, and will always be a mess, only the make up of the clutter changes.  All any of us can do is change ourselves, and in so doing, affect a great change on the world itself.

How do you interact with a world where some people see themselves as Chosen and the rest as less than dirt?

The state of the world arises from a distortion of Tzelem Elohim, the image of God.  We are all made in the image of God, having the imprint of the Creator in our hearts.  You don't have to be a believer to see this.  Carl Sagan used to say that we are "Star Stuff," and J Michael Straczynski wrote, "We are the Universe trying to understand itself."  Whatever the language or the words, we are all saying the same thing.

Our problems arise either from the aggrandizing of this image, or its defacement.  We revel in humor born out of insults.  Each joke chips away at the dignity of Human Life.  Or, we set our species, or nation, or ethnic group, or worse of all, our leaders, up on pedestals to be worshiped and obeyed.

The answer is an honest appraisal of ourselves, neither over praising our own virtues, nor celebrating the faults of others.  This is a middle path of its own.

Christ gave us two commandments, "The second is this, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' There is no other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:31 (NAS))."

Forget all the harping on the 10 Commandments, this is the one broken more than any other.

We either love ourselves and hate our neighbor, or love our neighbor and hate ourselves, but the real challenge in life is to do both.

Throughout my life, I have struggled with self-esteem.  It is hard for me to not hate myself.  Why?  My culture taught me to.  I am fat, gay, and think too much.  Three of the mortal sins of pop culture.  It was not until I realized that it doesn't matter what others think of me, that I saw myself as I am: a flawed person trying to be better.

This is the great call and challenge of Compassion and Humility.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  So long as you do that, you are on the right course.