That evening while teaching in the house, for it had begun to rain, Jesus talked at great length, dying to show the twelve what they must be, not what they must do. They knew only a religion that imposed the doing of certain things as the means of attaining righteousness—salvation. But Jesus would reiterate, “In the kingdom you must be righteous in order to do the work.[Paper 40:10.1, page 1584.4]
The title for this article, “Being and Doing,” is derived from the above remark made by Jesus to his followers that later goes on to state that “being righteous, by faith, must precede doing righteousness in our daily lives.” [Paper 140:10.1, page 1584.4]. This innocuous looking remark is the catalyst for initiating some serious thinking. For one, what does Jesus mean by “being righteous?” The most common assumption is that it simply means “doing good deeds to others.” But that reverses Jesus’ priority which asserted that being righteous takes precedence over the doing of righteousness.
An insight into Jesus’ meaning for “being righteous” is found in a statement about his earthly mission: “Jesus refused to have his attention diverted from his mission. He ignored the civic, social, and economic realms. He told the apostles he was concerned only with the principles of man’s inner and personal spiritual life. Hence, for those seeking to follow Jesus, this statement completely divorces “righteousness” [Paper 140:10.1, page 1580]. from the arena of the material and transfers it to the domain of the spiritual.
Jesus informs us what we must seek is righteousness in our spiritual life. Confirmation occurs many times in the Papers with statements such as, “the goal of human self-realization should be spiritual, not material” [Paper 100:2.6, page 1096.3]; “the only realities worth striving for are divine, spiritual, and eternal” [Paper 100:2.6, page 1096.3]; and “spiritual destiny is dependent on faith, love, and devotion to truth—hunger and thirst for righteousness—the whole hearted desire to find God and be like him.” [Paper 156:5.7, page 1739]
In other words, we must transfer our concepts of what we must “be” completely out from the finite, material, secular world to the inner, personal and spiritual world in which we, as individuals, must seek to remake ourselves in the image of God. That is what this life is all about. And in case you are unconvinced, hear this:
“The Master fully realized that certain social results would appear in the world as a consequence of the spread of the gospel of the kingdom; but he intended that all such desirable social manifestations should appear as unconscious and inevitable outgrowths, or natural fruits, of this inner personal experience of individual believers.” [Paper170:5.12 , page 1865.2].
Is this asking too much of us? If it is our desire to have a career in eternity, we do not appear to have a realistic alternative. To seek to become God-like is the only destiny on offer. Naturally that is a long-term process for which our immediate, earthly goal is provided by Jesus’ revelation of what it means to be God-like. But it is the only offer we have.
Unfortunately, Christianity forsook whatever understanding it had of this reality when it evolved from being a small band of dedicated individuals to become an ecclesiastical organization governed by creeds, ritual, and a priesthood. Periodically, attempts have been made for a revival, the one most relevant for Urantians occurring 350 years ago when it arose from the ashes of English Puritanism under the leadership of one, George Fox.
The aim of this group was for a purely personal religion in which each individual was dedicated to living in accordance with a direct consciousness of what they called the “Inward Light“—in our parlance, the God-Spirit within. Known as the Quakers, the group operated without creeds or clergy, and firmly believed that their experimental approach to the discovery of the “Inward Light” would spill over to reform all of Christendom.
The role of the Quakers’ “Inward Light” is similar, perhaps identical to, the Thought Adjuster of the Urantia Papers. The hope of the Quakers for the reformation of organized authoritarian Christianity is also very close to hopes expressed in the Papers—such as: “What a service if, through this revelation, the Son of Man should be recovered from the tomb of traditional theology and be presented as the living Jesus to the church that bears his name. [Paper 196:1.2, page 2090.3].
In its early days, the Quaker movement achieved remarkable results. It led the campaign in Britain and the USA for the abolition of slavery, it achieved much needed reform to the ghastly prison systems of both countries, it championed a campaign for more humane treatment of the mentally retarded, it was a leader in the campaign for women’s liberation, and much else. But in the long run it failed. Why?
Some Quaker literature places the blame for their demise squarely in the lap of their over-involvement in worldly affairs at the expense of individual consciousness of the Inward Light—the result being that the path illuminated by that Inward Light was lost.
But Jesus, in his wisdom, has instructed his Urantian followers to concern themselves only with man’s inner and spiritual life [Paper 140:8.9, page 1580.4]—and to allow the fruits of the spirit to arise unconsciously [Paper 170:5.12, page 1865.2] as a consequence of what we must become. For Jesus, being righteous is a categorical imperative that must take precedence over merely doing righteousness.
But Jesus also foresaw that there is an accompanying concept urgently requiring comprehension.
The Papers inform us “that of all human knowledge that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.” [Paper 196:1.3, page 2090.4]. The key to the value of this statement is because Jesus’ life is an authoritative revelation of the true character of God—in so far as that character is comprehensible and attainable by mortal beings such as ourselves.
Provided we have this knowledge, then the requirement that we must seek to become God-like becomes both a realistic and attainable possibility, But all efforts to remake ourselves in the image of God will fail to bear fruit if we believe its expression must be by the public demonstration of our newly found sainthood. Any effect we might have would be short-lived and transient because it would be the result of insincere play-acting, a staged performance that has little to do with our real self.
If we are to bear fruit where the Quakers failed, the demonstration of Jesus-like mode of living must first take place in the environment of those who know us best—our immediate family and our closest friends. Only they will be qualified to distinguish between our real spiritual rebirth and the pretend act that we might put on display in public. And because they will know that something remarkable and real has occurred in our lives, the possibility of it bearing fruit in their own lives will also become more real.
How, when, and where, then, can our efforts to live as Jesus lived, that is, in obedience to God’s will, become really effective? The Papers have some relevant comments:
…family life is man’s supreme evolutionary acquirement.[Paper 84:8.6, page 943.1]; Jesus exalted family as the highest human duty. [Paper 140:8.14, page 1581.1]; The family is the fundamental unit of fraternity in which parents and children learn the lessons of patience, altruism, tolerance, and forbearance which are so essential to the realization of brotherhood among all men.[Paper 84:7.28, page 941.9]; A good family portrays to its children their first disclosure of the love of the Paradise Parent. [Paper 84:7.30, page 942.1].
That a child will receive its “first disclosure of the love of the Paradise Parent”—that is God— by observing that same love in the lives of its parents is probably an unthinkable idea for most of us. But reflective thinking indicates that this is what has been missing in most Christian families for almost 2000 years, and is still missing in most Urantian families to this day. Yet it is possibly the most important concept in the whole of the Urantia revelation. For once achieved, it has the potential to be self-perpetuating and multiplicative as it is handed down generation by generation.
Living as Jesus lived—in a family environment.
Attempting to live our life as Jesus lived his while we are at home and among those who know us best may bring us face to face with problems we didn’t even know we had. Such problems derive from habits that commenced developing in our early childhood and are held more or less unconsciously—so much so that we ignore them as being normal behaviour.
Arising from our evolutionary animal heritage, many such habits originated from a deeply embedded trait found principally in herd and pack animals that we may label as dominance behaviour. Coupled with this is a more widespread trait sometimes called territorialism. Singly or together these traits may appear in related behavioural forms such as self-centeredness, aggression, cowardice, anger, fear, resentment, revenge, impatience, intolerance, meanness, avarice, and violent, abusive and anti-social behaviour.
Because these habits develop slowly, and mainly through trial and error procedures, they tend to be held unconsciously. Thus, we can become thoroughly nasty people without being in the slightest aware of our failings.
The Urantia Papers inform us, “the better man understands his neighbour, the easier it will be to forgive him, even to love him.” But what if we do not understand even ourselves? And are therefore wide open to the criticism of “physician, heal thyself.”
For most nasty people like us then, when seeking to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must first expend a major effort on self-healing, at the same time accepting, forgiving, and loving our neighbours without expecting to understand what makes them as they are. Some of our basic behaviour patterns are genetically inherited, others are learned. But most come from a combination of both. An example of why we cannot expect to understand what makes another as they are, comes from a recent discovery that a single gene controls the level of the brain enzyme, monamine oxidase. There are two forms of this gene, one good, the other bad. The gene plays an important role in what may be expressed in human males as violent and abusive behaviour patterns.
A staggering 85% of males who inherit the bad form of the gene,’ and also had a poor home environment, will exhibit violent and antisocial behaviour in later life. This may include child abuse if they themselves have experienced abuse during their own childhood. But if they have experienced a good home life, then they are no more likely to go off the rails than those with the good form of the gene.
This is one of the few cases in which behaviour can be linked with a. genetic abnormality—but even then the actual outcome is unpredictable. However, what has now become obvious is that human behaviour is extraordinarily complex—thus indicating that it will be a long, long time before we understand very much about what makes our neighbour, our associates, or even our spouse, behave as they do,
Therefore, if our behavioural interaction with others is to improve to the point that our Jesus-like behaviour will have positive effects on others, our repair work needs to be directed virtually entirely to within ourselves.
Almost all of our obnoxious behaviour derives directly from our evolutionary animal heritage—and Jesus proved it can be defeated,’ That is what life on Earth, this first phase of our journey into eternity, is about. And in a first step in our liberation, we need to recognize that things material and worldly are of little consequence for our eternal life—as evidenced by Jesus’ declaration that the only realities worth striving for are divine, spiritual, and eternal.
Having recognized that all human beings, and especially ourselves, are afflicted with inherited behavioural habits, we can embark on our own cure. Each of us will have at least some of the symptoms mentioned above—self-centeredness, resentment, impatience, intolerance and so on. If we are to be of any use in the struggle to bring the Jesus’ way to this world, these must be defeated. And for that we will need the help and guidance of our indwelling Spirit-Guides, our Thought Adjuster and the Spirit of Truth.
Help is also available from the account we have of Jesus’ early life in which he tackled these same problems and overcame them by learning never to react to the will of another, but only to the will of God and his own will.’ We can emulate Jesus by doing the same thing—refusing to react emotionally to the behaviour of others by first pausing to think, then referring our problem to the God-Within, and only after that responding as we believe Jesus would have responded)
If we can convert this process to becoming habitual, we are on our way to becoming the victors. However we will have difficulty in responding as we believe Jesus would have responded except that we have a thorough knowledge of the life of Jesus—which is why the revelatory have said that of all human knowledge, that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it. [Paper 196:1.3, page 2090.4].
Strangely enough it is the quiet and unobtrusive defeat of our animalistic behaviour patterns being carried out in our home environment that turns out to have by far the most potential to influence the long-term spiritual advancement of our planet.
Past experience of religionists has shown that shouting our message from the rooftops will ultimately fail. (Billy Graham, etc.) Also, the undertaking of massive good works will fail. (Salvation Army, etc.) Even giving out millions of Urantia Books will fail. (Gideons and Bible) But that quiet, unobtrusive, unannounced elimination of animal behavioural habits from our daily lives, particularly when in our home environment or with our intimate friends, will be absorbed, even if unconsciously so—and it will affect those who know us well.4
This inconspicuous change in our lives, these acts of not reacting to the will of others but instead modifying our animalistic reactions to coincide with the cosmic good of others, has the incredible power to bring about radical change, not only to other lives, but eventually to the whole world. How will it happen?
All who have been brought up in a church-going Christian family will be well aware that although Christianity is among the most ethical religions ever to exist on Earth, nevertheless the vast majority of its members are just as much plagued with humanity’s animal behavioural problems as any other community. The cure then is not going to be in church-going nor in inspiring sermons, nor in good works. Primarily it is in what parents actually “are” in their own home lives that will matter. The revelation informs us:
“The family is the fundamental unit of fraternity in which parents and children learn the lessons of patience, altruism, tolerance, and forbearance which are so essential to the realization of brotherhood among all men.”[Paper 84:7.28, page 941.9].
Our revelation also tells us that the coming of the kingdom of God in the hearts of individuals must precede the onset of the brotherhood of man—which implies that the spiritualization of the individual must come first. It also indicates that the roots of this coming brotherhood of man will be in family life—and it must be God-conscious parents who will bear the responsibility of being the initiators of the whole process.
How will it all happen? Slowly, maybe over hundreds of years even. And the dominant factor will be because children observe Jesus-like behaviour in their parents and, in their turn, pass it on to their own children, who pass it on to their children, and so on, and so on.
Three hundred and fifty years ago the Quakers almost got it right. They lost their way when they moved their sphere of action to the secular world—and lost the guidance of their “Inward Light.” Imagine where we would now be if they had had the Urantia revelation to help them and they had understood its real message. Light and Life might have been just around the corner.
- New Scientist, August 10, 2002, page. 23
- -Exhibit in your one short life in the flesh… the transcendent possibilities attainable by a God-knowing human… ” ( Immanuel to Michael prior to his incarnation). [Paper 120:2.8, page 1328.5].
- Ann Bendall, “The Mind of Jesus.” Interface International Vol. 9., No. 5, 2002.
- “Let me emphatically state this eternal truth; if you, by truth coordination, learn to exemplify, in your lives this beautiful wholeness of righteousness, your fellow men will then seek after you that they may gain what you have so acquired.”[Paper 155:1.5, page 1726.2].