We were all beating each other up because of Jesus. We were six years old and half of us were Jews and half were Christians.
I will tell you this: when I was growing up, my parents didn’t say nice things about Jesus. And, I can imagine, when my Christian friends were growing up, maybe they probably don’t hear nice things about Jews.
This is not anti-semitism. This is normal. People are hatched into their little tribes and only later fly out of the nest.
Black and white is easy for a six year old and only when we later roll around in the mud of life do we appreciate the beautiful color gray.
Finally, Greg Fiorvanti stopped everyone from fighting. Someone had hit him in the face and he was crying and dirty.
He yelled, “Can we all just agree that Jesus was a great teacher?” And then, just like we saw our fathers do every day, we went back and forth and shook hands with each other.
Greg’s father was the CEO of MTV. We were all little white middle-class boys living in a little suburb near New York City. We were tiny Jihadists on a playground.
My friends parent’s (Jews) didn’t like me because I always talked about how Jesus could walk on water. Like Superman. Moses was pretty impressive also.
Someone should make one of those buddy-cop movies where Jesus and Moses are the cops. Or Yoda and Morgan Freeman.
Thomas Jefferson spent his entire post-Presidency life devoted to coming up with an accurate story of Jesus. He didn’t like all the contradictions and varying stories of Jesus’ life in the different gospels.
He used a razor to cut passages out of the different gospels and paste them into one coherent book which he never published but it’s called “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”
He left out the miracles and the angels and anything supernatural because he felt this corrupted the original message of Jesus. He told John Adams those stories were used to placate the Romans who loved the stories of miracles in their own gods.
He never published the book. He didn’t want to upset anyone. He did it for his own inspiration. Never taking anything as “gospel” he essentially composed his own set of beliefs just for himself and his own happiness.
Leo Tolstoy, after he wrote “War and Peace” did the same thing and it took him about 30 years. In 1880 he published “The Kingdom of God is Within You”.
This book focused not on a supernatural heaven that waits us later but on the choices we can make today that can make us happy and inspiring: “Turn the other cheek”.
Gandhi, a Hindu, lists this book as the most influential book in his approach to non-violence when dealing with an oppressive government. Gandhi and Tolstoy wrote back and forth with each other for years.
In these books, ONE thing stands out for me.
And it’s extremely relevant in this era of “outrage porn”. Everyone screaming all day long on the Internet about the slightest wrongs they can find in everyone else.
Jesus says about the crowd who wants to stone the adulterer, “let he who is blameless cast the first stone”.
The older people leave first, then the younger people. Jesus isn’t paying attention. Oddly, he’s just doodling in the sand. No miracles.
Finally, he asks the woman, “Has no one condemned you?” Almost as if he were daydreaming the entire time and didn’t notice what was happening. It’s probably weirdest story in the New Testament.
She says, “No, sir.” And he says, “I don’t condemn you either”.
He DOESN’T say “I forgive you.” Forgiveness is not something you can give to others. It’s not like ice cream. Forgiveness is the gift I give myself.
Forgiveness and anger and fear and hatred are all things that happen inside of ourselves.
I know when I’m upset at someone, it ruins everything I touch after that. I can’t sleep. I can’t write. I can’t work.
It’s like that cartoon of the guy typing and yelling: “Honey, I can’t go to sleep right now! Someone is WRONG on the Internet!”
We choose for ourselves what we feel. When we let other people choose our feelings, we mirror their mediocrity. We mirror their weakness instead of choosing our strength.
As the great Morgan Freeman says, “Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prays for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous?”
And then what happens?
Morgan Freeman again, “You change the world.”