INDIAN FESTIVALS : Christianity
— A Religion of Love, Kindness and Faith
By R. N. Chopra
Christmas
Jesus Christ’s teachings were couched in a very simple language, easy to understand. He gathered a group of twelve who constantly accompanied him on his preaching tours from place to place, proclaiming the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God.

The ancestry of Jesus Christ is traceable to the royal house of David and his birth ascribed to the miraculous act of God. He appeared in public at the age of 30 years . He was crucified by the Roman authorities, on the accusation of his own countrymen.

By birth he was a Jew, Judaism was a religion of great teachers who, in the highest degree, possessed what the Germans call “God Consciousness”. The Jews associated the restoration of their kingdom with the coming of the Messiah who would re-establish the line of David. This religion was pre-eminently theocratic, with God as the king supreme, enthroned in heaven.

Before Jesus claimed to be that long-awaited Messiah of the Jews, a stern Jewish ascetic, John the Baptist, had announced the coming judgement of God and the preparation of the Messiah. Standing by the bank of the River Jordan, John proclaimed: “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of God/Heaven is coming.”
Jesus was one of the people baptized by John. This incident marked the turning point in Jesus’ life.
“When he came out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the spirit descending upon him like a dove and a voice came from heaven. “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased,” (Mark 1: 10-11)
This was taken to be a call directly from the “beyond”. Moses earlier, Mohammed later (and Paul also) had similar experiences. After this, Jesus remained in wilderness for 40 days, before deciding on his future career. On coming out from there, he repeated John’s message “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of God is near.”

Peter acknowledged him as the Messiah, in his confession “Thou art the Christ”, to free the Jews from the hated rule of the Romans and usher in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ’s teachings were couched in a very simple language, easy to understand. He gathered a group of twelve who constantly accompanied him on his preaching tours from place to place, proclaiming the gospel (good news) of the Kingdom of God. His idea of God was not that of a theologian or a metaphysician; he was not concerned with speculative questions about God nor with abstract theories of his relationship to the soul and the world. He talked of “God’s continual presence, His fatherly love, His transcendental righteousness, His mercy, His goodness, all these were the facts of immediate experience; not in proof by formal logic but in the reality of consciousness was the certainty of God.”
He preached communion with God as the most certain fact of man’s experience, a simple reality accessible to all. His was a universal appeal easily comprehended.

Here it is difficult to resist the temptation of quoting extracts from the biography of Jesus Christ – The Greatest Story Ever Told by Fulton Oursler – extracts which sum up his teachings – “A Chart of Human Behaviour” – through a message which his 12 Apostles learnt by heart:

 “As the disciples sat on their heels in a ring around him, he began to teach. There was never heard in this world before that day of divine revelation, or since, a more concise or orderly statement of a universal philosophical system; nor has there ever been another such chart of human behaviour. Here was all the soul needed to know of God and creation and daily life, of today and hereafter. Here, too, were the most audacious promises ever made to humanity: the good news of Eternity, according to Jesus Christ.”

 “He began by telling them how a human being could be happy in his life on this earth. There were only eight rules one had to follow and one would be blessed. Not that he promised them security against the world’s misfortunes; he had no guarantee for any against pain, loss, grief or disgrace. No such thing lay in the teaching whose revelation these twelve were to start reverberating in every land. All that Jesus had to offer was happiness. That was a state of mental well-being by which a man could remain tranquil, and yet with an eager zest for life, no matter how poignant his loss, how deep his sorrow, how excruciating his pain. Here were eight rules to keep that man serene and capable in the midst of any disaster. These eight beatitudes were simple yet difficult to follow. The way to destruction was broad and inviting, the way to glory straight and narrow.

 (i) A man must be poor in spirit; he must be gentle, preaching humility, not heady and proud and arrogant. If one had succeeded in one great task he was not to sit and gloat or brag but go right on planning another job, a harder and better one;

 (ii) A man must be meek; that was not to be a cringing coward but to believe in the goodness of God and in the friendliness of the Universe, even when the soul is suffering and can see no reason why it should suffer: The rule meant acceptance of God’s will;

 (iii) To mourn too would be a third blessing but happiness would come not on feeling sorry for ourselves so much as in feeling compassion for others and trying to help them – a basic counsel implied in all the Master’s teachings.

 (iv) Again a dynamic follower of his message would hunger and thirst after justice and righteousness, not merely in a legal sense but in a desire to understand and follow the laws that govern life and that are part of the will of God;

 (v) We must also be merciful, so will we earn mercy for ourselves. And who shall not need it?

 (vi) Those shall be happy too who are clean and pure of heart, for they would see God, as Jesus promised. But he meant what he said in the fullest sense; purity meant more than just a lack of lust; it called for a goal and a purpose in life;

 (vii) Those who were persecuted for the sake of justice for the teachings he gave them – they would be happy, for theirs was the kingdom of Heaven;

 (viii) “Blessed are you when they shall revile you and persecute you and speak all that is evil against you untruly, for my sake. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.” Jesus added that “Do not think I have come to destroy the law or the prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfil.” He recalled to them the “Ten Commandments” called the Laws. You must not kill. “I say to you that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgement.”

 “If your friend and you have quarrelled, there is no place for you in the Church. Leave the altar, fleeing your gift and find the man with whom you have disagreed. Make up with him, be reconciled to him; then, and not before, you are in a proper state of mind to kneel before the altar of God. Agree with your adversary quickly before things go too far.”

 “Thoughts of lust are the same as acts of lust – Man has to conquer himself at whatever the cost. If his right eye is rotten, tear it out. Better to lose an eye than infect the whole body and die.”

Jesus said that there could be no divorce in the Christian life. Man could have only one wife and to get rid of her, however troublesome, would expose her to the danger of adultery.

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