The Way Shower

In one of her many letters, Myrtle Fillmore wrote:

God’s love for us, for all His children, is so great that He sent Jesus Christ to be the Way Shower to lead us to a greater realization of our heavenly Father’s love and will for us.

This role of Jesus, the Nazarene, for Unity is repeated often. One of the core statements in Unity’s philosophy is:

We believe that Jesus expressed his divine potential and sought to show humankind how to express ours as well. We see Jesus as a master teacher of universal truths and as our Way Shower.[1]

In my reading of Unity literature much emphasis is placed on the mystical aspects of Jesus’ teachings and very little on his reform agenda.

The mystical aspects are important. They indicate that God/Spirit is everywhere present. We learn that we can become aware of this Divine presence, by entering the Silence. From that space we may experience healing, peace, one-ness with all-that-is. Such experience is valuable. Through it we can come to know our own essential divinity. Is this enough? Is this all there was to the way Jesus was showing?

Who was Jesus?

We know precious little about our Way Shower. Almost certainly he did live. As one writer recently put it, “… both Roman and early Christian writings from within a generation of Christ’s time provide as much evidence of his existence as Roman writings provide of the existence of Julius Caesar.”[2] The main records we have of his life and work are the Gospels, but these contradict one another much of the time and some of what is written in them is clearly not true in a historical sense. Even if he did not live in history, the character of Jesus in the stories that have come down to us is an inspirational person, who in a sense, continues to live on today. The stories are set in Roman ruled Galilee and Judea.

What did Jesus Do?

In the Jesus stories we have inherited through the Gospels we find a central character who was an activist constantly challenging the dominance systems of the time. He often risked his life in doing so. In Mark 12:13-17 we read:

Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.

At the time of Jesus the Pharisees and Herodians were two groups that supported of Herod Antipas who held his position as ruler of Galilee only with the support of Tiberius Julius Caesar and was charged with maintaining Roman law and the violently imposed Roman Peace. In their presence Jesus implied that the Roman emperor was not God: a heresy punishable by crucifixion. While apparently answering a question about the payment of taxes, Jesus was challenging the authority and power of the emperor and of the Roman state. There are several such stories in the gospels.

Would we be prepared to follow the Way shown by Jesus? If Unity is to be true to its Way Shower, then Unity as a movement must begin to take a positive stand against injustice (unfairness) wherever it may be seen.

The Way

The Jesus scholar, Marcus Borg has written:

To say, “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life,” is to say, “What we see in Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.”  It is not about knowing the word Jesus and believing in what is said about him that is “the way.” Rather, the way is what we see in his life; we see a life of loving God and loving others, a life of challenging the powers that oppress this world, a life radically centered in the God to whom he bore witness.[3]

In Unity we address the truth that we are one with the Divine (the Father in Biblical language), we understand the presence of the Kingdom of God within us and we strive to integrate this with our daily lives. In Unity this is sometimes seen as sufficient:

When people affirm “Thy will be done,” they are not simply accepting divine control of life and its choices; they are opening themselves to choose the good. They are not manipulating God, but rather turning the crank on God’s great reservoir within and allowing the creative flow to increase. … Less than this is not adequate; more than this is not required.[4]

It is necessary and sufficient, this passage implies, to know and surrender to God. As we have seen, the way demonstrated by Jesus (as best we can tell from scholarly examination of the texts that we have inherited), included more than surrender to God the good, more than accepting that Abba will ensure that all turns out for the best: the way demonstrated by Jesus included caring for others, ensuring that their needs were met and protesting against the wealthy and powerful who brought about their suffering in their daily lives.

If we are to take Jesus seriously as a “Way Shower”, then we must find out as best we can from the resources available (chiefly the Gospels and the authentic letters of Paul with the guidance of modern scholars[5]) and learn what we can of the story of this character called Jesus. Then we must follow the way that he demonstrated in his life and teaching.

[2] Ian Guthridge (2012), Religion: Faith, Fact or Fantasy?, Medici School Publications (Kindle edition)

[3] Marcus J. Borg (2011), Speaking Christian, Harper One, p. 173

[4] Thomas W. Shepherd (2010) Jesus 2.1, Unity House, p. 199

[5] Some scholars who have written easily accessed studies of Jesus include Marcus J. Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Bart D. Ehrman and John Shelby Spong.


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