There I sat at the dinner table, 5 couples; Scientologists, Southern Baptists, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and us (the Jews). Sounds like a bad joke right?
I am seated next to a woman whose father, it turns out, was a Southern Baptist Minister and, after drinking some wine, turns to me and says, “So who do you think Jesus REALLY was?”
As I turned to answer her, out of the corner of my eye, I see my host quaking in his chair. He knows me and he knows that I rarely hold back my punches. I am opinionated and, as you also know, I don’t mind sharing my thoughts. As my wife says, “You have NO filter.”
So, I turn to my dinner-mate and respond, “I think he was a Rabbi.”
I turned to take a bite of food thinking that was the end of the conversation. But, no, she bends forward turning her head to get my attention and says; “He said he was the son of God!”
Now our host was really worried. I saw a panicked look on his face as I immediately responded with, “Actually, HEdidn’t say it. It was his disciples who said he did.” And, of course I didn’t stop there as a normal person would have. I added, “And in an American Court of law, that would be considered HERESAY.”
Well, you could see the Cabernet rising in her blood. Her face was turning bright red and it looked as if she were about to erupt. So, not wanting to totally ruin the dinner and in deference to my friend and host, I tried to diffuse the matter. I quickly continued, “If Jesus’ message was “Peace on Earth, good-will toward all mankind.” then we can all agree on his message and whether the messenger you believe in was Moses, Jesus or Mohammed, that message is something we can all agree on. I continued, “Let’s agree on the message and not focus on the messenger!”
My friend echoed the sentiment while raising his glass and saying, “Let’s all agree on the message!” The evening was saved and didn’t devolve into the Last Supper.
In a few days, Christians will celebrate the birth of Jesus. And, whether you believe in the theology surrounding him or not, there are a few things we can all agree upon. And, I think at this time, with what’s going on in the world and even in our own political debates, I think it’s valuable to talk about what we agree on rather than what we disagree on. I believe that if our commonality does not determine our future, our differences will with disastrous consequences.
Jesus was arguably the most influential person in Western Civilization, if not in history. In his name, the entire world changed. Crusades, religiously inspired exploration to spread the word, scientific, philosophic and artistic evolution promoting “Christian” values and ideas, and so many other factors (including wars) that shaped Europe, the Americas and even Asia have significantly contributed to the world’s evolution.
And, like all things, there are positives and negatives. But, I’d like to focus on the positives; the message, if you will. We know from many sources that Jesus was a rabbinic student and he preached to others. And we know, through the writings of others about his messages told through story, parable and action.
“Peace on Earth. Goodwill toward Mankind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” are just 2 of the many messages we can all agree upon and if practiced would go a long way toward healing our troubled world.
So, at this time of year, as I wish my Christian friends a “Merry Christmas,” may we all focus on the messages of peace and coexistence. May we focus on our commonality as human beings occupying this beautiful planet, and may we all respect each other so we can live in peace.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
-Matthew 5:6 (New American Standard Bible)
To everyone’s good health, wellness and peace,