Proclaiming the Religion of Jesus: an Interfaith Perspective

We live in a troubled world! A cursory glance at the state of things through the eyes of our modern media would suggest that we have plenty to be concerned about. And yet, as Urantia Book students, we are comforted by the promise that our planet Urantia will ultimately be settled in Light and Life. What isn’t perfectly clear, is what we might have to go through before that beautiful day dawns upon us.

Given the present tenuous state of affairs that we Urantia mortals find ourselves in, it seems understandable and reasonable to ask what it is that the Gods and the celestial authorities that have been given oversight of our world, would have us do. A simple answer could be…God’s will!

 …Obedience to the will of the Father, yielding the fruits of the spirit in one’s personal life, is the law of the kingdom. [Paper 142:1.5, page 1596.7]

The affectionate dedication of the human will to the doing of the Father’s will is man’s choicest gift to God. [Paper 1:1.2, page 22.5]

But are there specific tasks that we are exhorted to do at this time? If so, what? Before answering this important question, let’s take a brief look at what our planet looks like from the perspective of our unseen celestial friends.

To begin with, The Urantia Book tells us that our planet is supervised by 12 corps of master seraphim.

The master seraphim of planetary supervision utilize many agencies for the prosecution of their missions. They function as ideational clearinghouses, mind focalizers, and project promoters. While unable to inject new and higher conceptions into human minds, they often act to intensify some higher ideal which has already appeared within a human intellect. [Paper 114:6.19, page 1256.9]

Collectively, these corps have the momentous task of keeping this “social ship” stable and on course as it plies the turbulent seas of “evolutionary destiny”. [Paper 99:1.3, page 1086.6]

It would seem that these master seraphim are in the business of generating ideas, focusing our minds, and promoting projects, not through direct injection into our minds but through a process of intensification of our existing ideals. I’m sure most of us can relate to this experience. If not, then such information should heighten our awareness and anticipation. These masterful spirit beings are offering us a wonderful service, if we are receptive to it! But for what purpose?

To answer that, let’s take a quick look at the broad-brush description given to us by a commission of midwayers concerning the major struggle for dominance of the human mind that has been gripping Urantia for centuries now:

Religion is now confronted by the challenge of a new age of scientific minds and materialistic tendencies. In this gigantic struggle between the secular and the spiritual, the religion of Jesus will eventually triumph. [Paper 195:4.5, page 2075.3]

This “gigantic struggle between the secular and the spiritual” started off as a revolt against superstition and the extremes of evolutionary religion by the forces of scientific rationalism, stretching back to the 17th century Age of Reason and the 18th century Age of Enlightenment. [Paper 195:9.1, page 2082.6] Such a struggle has been necessary, but the outcome of this struggle is assured: the religion of Jesus will be victorious over the forces of atheistic secular materialism. To remove any lingering doubt that such an outcome is inevitable, the authors reiterate:

A new and fuller revelation of the religion of Jesus is destined to conquer an empire of materialistic secularism and to overthrow a world sway of mechanistic naturalism. Urantia is now quivering on the very brink of one of its most amazing and enthralling epochs of social readjustment, moral quickening, and spiritual enlightenment. [Paper 195:9.2, page 2082.7]

So in light of the fact that Urantia is on the brink of something truly “amazing”, something absolutely “enthralling”, what role, if any, can we play…are we exhorted to play?

Before addressing this crucial question, let me recap on what we’ve just been told about “the religion of Jesus”. Without a hint of ambiguity or equivocation, the revelators have foretold that the religion of Jesus is destined to “overthrow” and ultimately “triumph” over “an empire of materialistic secularism” and “mechanistic naturalism”. Moreover, they seem to be suggesting that we are at the precipice or tipping point of this centuries old battle for minds. One senses that they are trying to alert us to the critical times in which we live, perhaps with a view to waking us up and getting us moving!

So again, what role can we play or are we exhorted to play in this drama being enacted on our world stage? To find the right answer to that question we need to know more about the religion of Jesus. What is it, and what else is it destined to do? The answers are nothing short of extraordinary!!

THE RELIGION OF JESUS

The religion of Jesus is the most dynamic influence ever to activate the human race. Jesus shattered tradition, destroyed dogma, and called mankind to the achievement of its highest ideals in time and eternity — to be perfect, even as the Father in heaven is perfect. [Paper 99.5.3, page 1091.2]

The religion of Jesus is the most powerful unifying influence the world has ever known. [Paper 194.3.17, page 2065.5]

The religion of Jesus is immensely powerful! It is “the most dynamic influence” and “the most powerful unifying influence” to have ever graced our planet. What teachings, what living example could possibly generate such a profound influence over human affairs? Here are some clues!

And, sooner or later, these concealed truths of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men will emerge to effectually transform the civilization of all mankind. [Paper 194.2.8, page 2061.6]

Jesus made the care of God for man like the solicitude of a loving father for the welfare of his dependent children and then made this teaching the cornerstone of his religion. And thus did the doctrine of the fatherhood of God make imperative the practice of the brotherhood of man. The worship of God and the service of man became the sum and substance of his religion. Jesus took the best of the Jewish religion and translated it to a worthy setting in the new teachings of the gospel of the kingdom. [Paper 159.5.7, page 1769.9] Emphasis added

Pentecost, with its spiritual endowment, was designed forever to loose the religion of the Master from all dependence upon physical force; the teachers of this new religion are now equipped with spiritual weapons. They are to go out to conquer the world with unfailing forgiveness, matchless good will, and abounding love. They are equipped to overcome evil with good, to vanquish hate by love, to destroy fear with a courageous and living faith in truth. Jesus had already taught his followers that his religion was never passive; always were his disciples to be active and positive in their ministry of mercy and in their manifestations of love. [Paper 194.3.11, page 2064.3]

These quotes effectively summarize the teachings and practices of the religion of Jesus. And it is not hard to see why these teachings would have such widespread appeal that they could potentially unify the entire human race! Indeed, such an outcome would have occurred in the first century following Michael’s incarnation on Urantia were it not for a serious but understandable mistake on the part of his apostles.

Jesus was fully aware of the human tendency to glorify, venerate, and worship the divine messengers who have been sent to our planet. He went to great lengths to prevent this from happening with respect to his own bestowal:

One purpose which Jesus had in mind, when he sought to segregate certain features of his earthly experience, was to prevent the building up of such a versatile and spectacular career as would cause subsequent generations to venerate the teacher in place of obeying the truth which he had lived and taught. Jesus did not want to build up such a human record of achievement as would attract attention from his teaching. Very early he recognized that his followers would be tempted to formulate a religion about him which might become a competitor of the gospel of the kingdom that he intended to proclaim to the world. Accordingly, he consistently sought to suppress everything during his eventful career which he thought might be made to serve this natural human tendency to exalt the teacher in place of proclaiming his teachings. [Paper 128:4.6, page 1413.2]

But to no avail!

And so, under the vigorous leadership of Peter and ere the Master ascended to the Father, his well-meaning representatives began that subtle process of gradually and certainly changing the religion of Jesus into a new and modified form of religion about Jesus. [Paper 192:4.8, page 2051.5]

Jesus understood the minds of men. He knew what was in the heart of man, and had his teachings been left as he presented them, the only commentary being the inspired interpretation afforded by his earth life, all nations and all religions of the world would speedily have embraced the gospel of the kingdom. The well-meant efforts of Jesus’ early followers to restate his teachings so as to make them the more acceptable to certain nations, races, and religions, only resulted in making such teachings the less acceptable to all other nations, races, and religions. [Paper 149:2.1, page 1670.2]

…The second great blunder of the Master’s early followers, and one which all subsequent generations have persisted in perpetuating, was to organize the Christian teaching so completely about the person of Jesus. This overemphasis of the personality of Jesus in the theology of Christianity has worked to obscure his teachings, and all of this has made it increasingly difficult for Jews, Mohammedans, Hindus, and other Eastern religionists to accept the teachings of Jesus. We would not belittle the place of the person of Jesus in a religion which might bear his name, but we would not permit such consideration to eclipse his inspired life or to supplant his saving message: the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. [Paper 149:2.4, page 1670.5]

And so the “unadulterated religious teachings of Jesus” [Paper 196:2.1, page 2091.10] were corrupted by the well-intentioned “overemphasis of the personality of Jesus”, resulting in a new religion about Jesus. Notwithstanding that this new religion became immensely popular among the nations of the Occident, the original teachings of Jesus “began to lose their potentially universal appeal to all races and kinds of men.” [Paper 98:7.11, page 1084.10] Emphasis added. But all was not lost! The religion of Jesus would lie largely dormant within this religion about Jesus until the time of a future spiritual dispensation:

Mistake not! there is in the teachings of Jesus an eternal nature which will not permit them forever to remain unfruitful in the hearts of thinking men. The kingdom as Jesus conceived it has to a large extent failed on earth; for the time being, an outward church has taken its place; but you should comprehend that this church is only the larval stage of the thwarted spiritual kingdom, which will carry it through this material age and over into a more spiritual dispensation where the Master’s teachings may enjoy a fuller opportunity for development. Thus does the so-called Christian church become the cocoon in which the kingdom of Jesus’ concept now slumbers. The kingdom of the divine brotherhood is still alive and will eventually and certainly come forth from this long submergence, just as surely as the butterfly eventually emerges as the beautiful unfolding of its less attractive creature of metamorphic development. [Paper 170:5.21, page 1866.4]

We stand at the threshold of something truly amazing: the re-emergence of the religion or gospel of Jesus from the cocoon of Christianity following centuries of slumber. As in the first century, a vital work needs to be done:

The religion of Jesus is a new gospel of faith to be proclaimed to struggling humanity. [Paper194:3.2, page 2062.11]

All Urantia is waiting for the proclamation of the ennobling message of Michael, unencumbered by the accumulated doctrines and dogmas of nineteen centuries of contact with the religions of evolutionary origin. The hour is striking for presenting to Buddhism, to Christianity, to Hinduism, even to the peoples of all faiths, not the gospel about Jesus, but the living, spiritual reality of the gospel of Jesus. [Page 94:12.7, page 1041.5] Emphasis added

Let’s be clear about one thing! The hour is striking (meaning now!) for presenting to the peoples of all faiths, the gospel of Jesus, which should not be confused with The Urantia Book, the fifth epochal revelation! To be sure, it is an integral part of the book but The Urantia Book is much more than the religion of Jesus. It is a revelation about cosmology, history, philosophy, religion, and the nature of deity, and of course much more! It is manifestly not a book for everyone. It seems highly unlikely that it will “conquer an empire of materialistic secularism and [to] overthrow a world sway of mechanistic naturalism”. At this critical time in human history, it is still virtually unknown on the world stage. When it was initially published in 1955, many believed that it would have a revolutionary effect on humanity. They were disappointed, but needn’t have been had they heeded the message contained in The Publication Mandate, dated 4th April, 1955, containing the parting words of the revelators concerning the purpose of the Urantia Papers:

THE TIMING OF THE URANTIA BOOK

(Generally designated as “The Publication Mandate”*)

  •     “We regard the Urantia Book as a feature of the progressive evolution of human society. It is not germane to the spectacular episodes of epochal revolution, even though it may apparently be timed to appear in the wake of one such revolution in human society. The Book belongs to the era immediately to follow the conclusion of the present ideological struggle. That will be the day when men will be willing to seek truth and righteousness. When the chaos of the present confusion has passed, it will be more readily possible to formulate the cosmos of a new and improved era of human relationships. And it is for this better order of affairs on earth that the Book has been made ready.
  •     “But the publication of the Book has not been postponed to that (possibly) somewhat remote date. An early publication of the Book has been provided so that it may be in hand for the training of leaders and teachers. Its presence is also required to engage the attention of persons of means who may be thus led to provide funds for translations into other languages.
  •     “(You) who have dedicated (your) lives to the service of the Book and the Brotherhood can little realize the import of (your) doings. (You) will doubtless live and die without fully realizing that (you) are participating in the birth of a new age of religion on this world.
  •     “The future is not open to (your) mortal comprehension, but (you) will do well to diligently study the order, plan, and methods of progression as they were enacted in the earth life of Michael when the Word was made flesh. You are becoming actors in an ensuing episode when the Word is made Book. Great is the difference in these dispensations of religion, but many are the lessons which can be learned from a study of the former age.
  •     “(You) must again study the times of Jesus on earth. (You) must carefully take note of how the kingdom of heaven was inaugurated in the world. Did it evolve slowly and unfold naturally? or did it come with sudden show of force and with spectacular exhibition of power? Was it evolutionary or revolutionary?

“(You) must learn to possess (your) souls in patience. (You) are in association with a revelation of truth which is a part of the natural evolution of religion on this world. Overrapid growth would be suicidal. The book is being given to those who are ready for it long before the day of its world-wide mission. Thousands of study groups must be brought into existence and the book must be translated into many tongues. Thus will the book be in readiness when the battle for man’s liberty is finally won and the world is once more made safe for the religion of Jesus and the freedom of mankind.”

Several key passages of the above document are pertinent to this discussion:

“[The Urantia Book] is not germane to the spectacular episodes of epochal revolution, even though it may apparently be timed to appear in the wake of one such revolution in human society. The Book belongs to the era immediately to follow the conclusion of the present ideological struggle.”

It seems clear from the above that the UB is not to play a spectacular role in the current ideological turmoil gripping human society, but rather it belongs to that “somewhat remote” time when the “chaos of the present confusion has passed”. It has been published in our times specifically for “the training of leaders and teachers” and “to engage the attention of persons of means who may be thus led to provide funds for translations into other languages.” Crucially, it states that it “is being given to those who are ready for it long before the day of its world-wide mission”.

So, am I saying that we should stop disseminating the teachings of The Urantia Book? Not at all! But it behooves us to heed the words of the revelators, both in the book itself, and in the Publication Mandate. At this time in history our first priority should be to proclaim the religion of Jesus, because that is what the UB exhorts us to do! In addition, we should continue to publish and study the UB, “as those who are ready for it” in preparation for “the day of its world-wide mission”. But this should not impinge upon nor detract from the crucial work of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus, because the world is ripe for it! Right now, humanity needs the saving gospel of Jesus!

Sooner or later another and greater John the Baptist is due to arise proclaiming “the kingdom of God is at hand”–meaning a return to the high spiritual concept of Jesus, who proclaimed that the kingdom is the will of his heavenly Father dominant and transcendent in the heart of the believer–and doing all this without in any way referring either to the visible church on earth or to the anticipated second coming of Christ. There must come a revival of the actual teachings of Jesus, such a restatement as will undo the work of his early followers who went about to create a sociophilosophical system of belief regarding the fact of Michael’s sojourn on earth. [Paper 170:5.19, page 1866.2] Emphasis added

The Urantia Book gives us the clearest exposition of Jesus’ teachings that the world has ever seen! We who have embraced this revelation must now give serious consideration to participating in the proclamation of this gospel of the kingdom of heaven.

“As the Father sent me into this world, even so now send I you. You are all called to carry the good news to those who sit in darkness. This gospel of the kingdom belongs to all who believe it; it shall not be committed to the custody of mere priests. Soon will the Spirit of Truth come upon you, and he shall lead you into all truth. Go you, therefore, into all the world preaching this gospel, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.” [Paper 191:6.3, page 2044.4]

Who are these ones who are called to “carry the good news”, to preach this “gospel of the kingdom”? If not us, then who?

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “PROCLAIM THE RELIGION OF JESUS”?

In addressing this question, I want to return to some statements in The Publication Mandate:

  • “The future is not open to (your) mortal comprehension, but (you) will do well to diligently study the order, plan, and methods of progression as they were enacted in the earth life of Michael when the Word was made flesh. You are becoming actors in an ensuing episode when the Word is made Book. Great is the difference in these dispensations of religion, but many are the lessons which can be learned from a study of the former age.
  •     “(You) must again study the times of Jesus on earth. (You) must carefully take note of how the kingdom of heaven was inaugurated in the world. Did it evolve slowly and unfold naturally? or did it come with sudden show of force and with spectacular exhibition of power? Was it evolutionary or revolutionary?”

These words echo what the revelators tell us in the book itself:

One of the most important things in human living is to find out what Jesus believed, to discover his ideals, and to strive for the achievement of his exalted life purpose. 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]

We need to examine the life of Jesus! How did he preach and teach his own religion?

At the outset, it needs to be stated emphatically that this is not simply a matter of imitating the methods that were employed by Jesus and the apostles in the first century.

Jesus lived on earth and taught a gospel which redeemed man from the superstition that he was a child of the devil and elevated him to the dignity of a faith son of God. Jesus’ message, as he preached it and lived it in his day, was an effective solvent for man’s spiritual difficulties in that day of its statement. And now that he has personally left the world, he sends in his place his Spirit of Truth, who is designed to live in man and, for each new generation, to restate the Jesus message so that every new group of mortals to appear upon the face of the earth shall have a new and up-to-date version of the gospel, just such personal enlightenment and group guidance as will prove to be an effective solvent for man’s ever-new and varied spiritual difficulties. [Paper 194:2.1, page 2060.6] Emphasis added

Yes, we need “a new and up-to-date version of the gospel” that restates the Jesus message in a way that is relevant and effective for solving our modern problems.

But Jesus left us with a living template of how to conduct the business of proclaiming and teaching his religion.  Allow me now to focus on this living template, the devotional, consecrated life of Jesus.

HOW DID JESUS TEACH HIS RELIGION?

He befriended people…he valued them…he served them…and he loved them!

Jesus truly loved people — just common folks. [Paper 127:3.7, page 1399.6]

Jesus could help men so much because he loved them so sincerely. He truly loved each man, each woman, and each child. He could be such a true friend because of his remarkable insight — he knew so fully what was in the heart and in the mind of man. He was an interested and keen observer. He was an expert in the comprehension of human need, clever in detecting human longings. [Paper 171:7.4, page 1874.7]

[Jesus was] devoted to making those close personal contacts with his fellow men, those intimate associations with the mortals of the realm, which so characterized his activities during these years that just preceded his public ministry. [Paper 130:0.5, page 1427.5]

On the way to Rome in the company of Gonod and Ganid, Jesus visited the great city of Alexandria, containing the world’s greatest library. Jesus was interested in the world’s religions; he and Ganid “discussed again and again all the religions of the world, Jesus endeavoring to point out to this young mind the truth in each…” [Paper 130:3.4, page 1432.4]

Under Jesus’ direction Ganid made a collection of the teachings of all those religions of the world which recognized a Universal Deity, even though they might also give more or less recognition to subordinate deities. [Paper 130:3.5, page 1432.5]

Jesus’ experience in Rome, the centre of the recognized civilized world, ably illustrates his favoured procedure for preaching and teaching his religion.

Jesus learned much about men while in Rome, but the most valuable of all the manifold experiences of his six months’ sojourn in that city was his contact with, and influence upon, the religious leaders of the empire’s capital. Before the end of the first week in Rome Jesus had sought out, and had made the acquaintance of, the worth-while leaders of the Cynics, the Stoics, and the mystery cults, in particular the Mithraic group.

He selected five of the leading Stoics, eleven of the Cynics, and sixteen of the mystery-cult leaders and spent much of his spare time for almost six months in intimate association with these religious teachers. And this was his method of instruction: Never once did he attack their errors or even mention the flaws in their teachings. In each case he would select the truth in what they taught and then proceed so to embellish and illuminate this truth in their minds that in a very short time this enhancement of the truth effectively crowded out the associated error; and thus were these Jesus-taught men and women prepared for the subsequent recognition of additional and similar truths in the teachings of the early Christian missionaries.

The significance of this remarkable doing can the better be understood when we record the fact that, out of this group of thirty-two Jesus-taught religious leaders in Rome, only two were unfruitful; the thirty became pivotal individuals in the establishment of Christianity in Rome, and certain of them also aided in turning the chief Mithraic temple into the first Christian church of that city.

Jesus’ work in behalf of the original thirty-two was entirely personal. In his labors for these individuals the scribe of Damascus never met more than three of them at one time, seldom more than two, while most often he taught them singly. And he could do this great work of religious training because these men and women were not tradition bound; they were not victims of a settled preconception as to all future religious developments. [Paper 132:0.4-9, pages 1455.4 – 1456.5]

In this manner, during the sojourn in Rome, Jesus personally came into affectionate and uplifting contact with upward of five hundred mortals of the realm. He thus gained a knowledge of the different races of mankind which he could never have acquired in Jerusalem and hardly even in Alexandria. He always regarded this six months as one of the richest and most informative of any like period of his earth life. [Paper 132:4.3, page 1461.1]

In summary, Jesus sought out religious people; he spent long periods of time getting to know them personally and intimately; he didn’t judge or find fault with their teachings but tried to find the truth in their belief system and then embellished and illuminated this truth in their minds. Jesus had a long-term view regarding relationships. He was patient, he was affectionate, and he was friendly and this resulted in him reaching upward of five hundred people from a diversity of ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. Jesus was already demonstrating the essential techniques of interfaith dialogue!

HOW DID JESUS TEACH HIS RELIGION?

The Urmia Lectures

In the 30th year of Jesus earthly life, he travelled by caravan to the Caspian Sea and on the way he stopped at Lake Urmia where he met a wealthy merchant named Cymboyton who had built a “temple of the philosophy of religions”.

More than thirty religions and religious cults were represented on the faculty of this temple of religious philosophy. These teachers were chosen, supported, and fully accredited by their respective religious groups. At this time there were about seventy-five teachers on the faculty, and they lived in cottages each accommodating about a dozen persons. Every new moon these groups were changed by the casting of lots. Intolerance, a contentious spirit, or any other disposition to interfere with the smooth running of the community would bring about the prompt and summary dismissal of the offending teacher. He would be unceremoniously dismissed, and his alternate in waiting would be immediately installed in his place.

These teachers of the various religions made a great effort to show how similar their religions were in regard to the fundamental things of this life and the next. [Paper 134:3.1-7, pages 1485.3 – 1486.2]

Jesus had encountered a first century model of interfaith dialogue. He must have been impressed with the way the temple was administered because he agreed to deliver 24 lectures on “The Brotherhood of Men”. “This was the most systematic and formal of all the Master’s teaching on Urantia” and it took place in a multifaith context which not only promoted a spirit of respect and tolerance, but also endeavoured to show how similar the faculty religions were.

The Caspian Sea trip brought Jesus in close contact with Far-Eastern peoples and as always, he was eager to gain a better understanding of their lives.

He made intimate and personal contact with every one of the surviving races of Urantia excepting the red. He equally enjoyed his personal ministry to each of these varied races and blended peoples, and all of them were receptive to the living truth which he brought them. The Europeans from the Far West and the Asiatics from the Far East alike gave attention to his words of hope and eternal life and were equally influenced by the life of loving service and spiritual ministry which he so graciously lived among them. [Paper 134:2.3, page 484.7]

Jesus loved, served, and befriended people!

HOW DID JESUS TEACH HIS RELIGION?

He was a living example of his teachings

Much as people were impressed by the content and spiritual flavour of Jesus’ teachings, it was his matchless personal behaviour, his supernal character, and his over-riding goodness that attracted people to him and convinced them of his claims of truth.

The unfailing kindness of Jesus touched the hearts of men, but his stalwart strength of character amazed his followers. He was truly sincere; there was nothing of the hypocrite in him. He was free from affectation; he was always so refreshingly genuine. He never stooped to pretense, and he never resorted to shamming. He lived the truth, even as he taught it. He was the truth. He was constrained to proclaim saving truth to his generation, even though such sincerity sometimes caused pain. He was unquestioningly loyal to all truth. [Paper 100:7.2, page 1101.6]

It was not so much what Jesus taught about the balanced character that impressed his associates as the fact that his own life was such an eloquent exemplification of his teaching. [Paper 149:4.5, page 1674.1]

Not surprisingly therefore, Jesus urged his apostles and disciples to make sure that their message, declaring and promoting the divine family of God, the infinite and unconditional love of the Father, and the loving service of our fellow mortals, was in harmony with the lives they were living! They were not only to teach the truth; they were perforce to live the truth!  Words and actions must coincide!

 “Peace be upon you. For a full week have I tarried that I might appear again when you were all present to hear once more the commission to go into all the world and preach this gospel of the kingdom. Again I tell you: As the Father sent me into the world, so send I you. As I have revealed the Father, so shall you reveal the divine love, not merely with words, but in your daily living. I send you forth, not to love the souls of men, but rather to love men. You are not merely to proclaim the joys of heaven but also to exhibit in your daily experience these spirit realities of the divine life since you already have eternal life, as the gift of God, through faith. When you have faith, when power from on high, the Spirit of Truth, has come upon you, you will not hide your light here behind closed doors; you will make known the love and the mercy of God to all mankind. Through fear you now flee from the facts of a disagreeable experience, but when you shall have been baptized with the Spirit of Truth, you will bravely and joyously go forth to meet the new experiences of proclaiming the good news of eternal life in the kingdom of God. You may tarry here and in Galilee for a short season while you recover from the shock of the transition from the false security of the authority of traditionalism to the new order of the authority of facts, truth, and faith in the supreme realities of living experience. Your mission to the world is founded on the fact that I lived a God-revealing life among you; on the truth that you and all other men are the sons of God; and it shall consist in the life which you will live among men — the actual and living experience of loving men and serving them, even as I have loved and served you. Let faith reveal your light to the world; let the revelation of truth open the eyes blinded by tradition; let your loving service effectually destroy the prejudice engendered by ignorance. By so drawing close to your fellow men in understanding sympathy and with unselfish devotion, you will lead them into a saving knowledge of the Father’s love. The Jews have extolled goodness; the Greeks have exalted beauty; the Hindus preach devotion; the faraway ascetics teach reverence; the Romans demand loyalty; but I require of my disciples life, even a life of loving service for your brothers in the flesh.” [Paper 191:5.3, page 2043.1] Emphasis added

 “Peace be upon you. That which my Father sent me into the world to establish belongs not to a race, a nation, nor to a special group of teachers or preachers. This gospel of the kingdom belongs to both Jew and gentile, to rich and poor, to free and bond, to male and female, even to the little children. And you are all to proclaim this gospel of love and truth by the lives which you live in the flesh. You shall love one another with a new and startling affection, even as I have loved you. You will serve mankind with a new and amazing devotion, even as I have served you. And when men see you so love them, and when they behold how fervently you serve them, they will perceive that you have become faith-fellows of the kingdom of heaven, and they will follow after the Spirit of Truth which they see in your lives, to the finding of eternal salvation. [Paper 191:6.2, page 2044.3]

Some day a reformation in the Christian church may strike deep enough to get back to the unadulterated religious teachings of Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. You may preach a religion about Jesus, but, perforce, you must live the religion of Jesus. [Paper 196:2.1, page 2091.10]

The religion of Jesus demands living and spiritual experience. Other religions may consist in traditional beliefs, emotional feelings, philosophic consciousness, and all of that, but the teaching of the Master requires the attainment of actual levels of real spirit progression. [Paper 160:5.12, page 1782.3]

But Jesus added further insight to these injunctions! He impressed upon his followers that if they truly lived the religion of Jesus, that people would be attracted to them, wanting to acquire that which they were exemplifying in their lives:

Let me emphatically state this eternal truth: If you, by truth co-ordination, 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. The measure wherewith truth seekers are drawn to you represents the measure of your truth endowment, your righteousness. The extent to which you have to go with your message to the people is, in a way, the measure of your failure to live the whole or righteous life, the truth-co-ordinated life.” [Paper 155:1.5, page 1726.2] Emphasis added

 

So what does an examination of Jesus’ life tell us about how to preach and teach the religion of Jesus?

It overwhelmingly shows us that Jesus was driven by love for his Father and for the mortals of Urantia. He was full of mercy and compassion and yearned to liberate them from their enslavement to burdensome traditions and the primitive traits of their animal nature. He was sensitive to the human proclivity for worship evinced by the diversity of Urantia religions. Jesus sought out religious people. He was an interfaith worker!

Yes, there were times when he encountered traditions and beliefs that dishonoured his Father and were damaging to his fellows and, on these occasions, he was not afraid to use spiritual force:

The Master was a pattern of reverence. The prayer of even his youth began, “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name.” He was even respectful of the faulty worship of his fellows. But this did not deter him from making attacks on religious traditions or assaulting errors of human belief. [Paper 100:7.16, page 1103.4]

But by engaging in interfaith dialogue, he was able to understand the mind of man, and rather than criticising false teachings, he generally preferred to add important truths that effectively overshadowed them.

In researching this article, I was struck by the number of references in The Urantia Book that encourage us to respect, learn about, and engage with the world’s faith traditions. Here are just a few of them.

 

INTERFAITH IN THE URANTIA BOOK

The many religions of Urantia are all good to the extent that they bring man to God and bring the realization of the Father to man. It is a fallacy for any group of religionists to conceive of their creed as The Truth; such attitudes bespeak more of theological arrogance than of certainty of faith. There is not a Urantia religion that could not profitably study and assimilate the best of the truths contained in every other faith, for all contain truth. Religionists would do better to borrow the best in their neighbors’ living spiritual faith rather than to denounce the worst in their lingering superstitions and outworn rituals. [Paper 92:7.3, page 1012.4]

The great strength of Buddhism is that its adherents are free to choose truth from all religions; such freedom of choice has seldom characterized a Urantian faith. In this respect the Shin sect of Japan has become one of the most progressive religious groups in the world; it has revived the ancient missionary spirit of Gautama’s followers and has begun to send teachers to other peoples. This willingness to appropriate truth from any and all sources is indeed a commendable tendency to appear among religious believers during the first half of the twentieth century after Christ. [Paper 94:12.4, page 1041.2]

The unity of religious experience among a social or racial group derives from the identical nature of the God fragment indwelling the individual. It is this divine in man that gives origin to his unselfish interest in the welfare of other men. But since personality is unique — no two mortals being alike — it inevitably follows that no two human beings can similarly interpret the leadings and urges of the spirit of divinity which lives within their minds. A group of mortals can experience spiritual unity, but they can never attain philosophic uniformity. And this diversity of the interpretation of religious thought and experience is shown by the fact that twentieth-century theologians and philosophers have formulated upward of five hundred different definitions of religion. In reality, every human being defines religion in the terms of his own experiential interpretation of the divine impulses emanating from the God spirit that indwells him, and therefore must such an interpretation be unique and wholly different from the religious philosophy of all other human beings. [Paper 103:1.1, page 1129.8]

While your religion is a matter of personal experience, it is most important that you should be exposed to the knowledge of a vast number of other religious experiences (the diverse interpretations of other and diverse mortals) to the end that you may prevent your religious life from becoming egocentric — circumscribed, selfish, and unsocial. [Paper 103:1.3, page 1130.2]

Rationalism is wrong when it assumes that religion is at first a primitive belief in something which is then followed by the pursuit of values. Religion is primarily a pursuit of values, and then there formulates a system of interpretative beliefs. It is much easier for men to agree on religious values — goals — than on beliefs — interpretations. And this explains how religion can agree on values and goals while exhibiting the confusing phenomenon of maintaining a belief in hundreds of conflicting beliefs — creeds. [Paper 103:1.3,4, pages 1130.2,3]

….. The Father in heaven never fails to accept the sincere worship of his children on earth, no matter how crude their concept of Deity or by what name they symbolize his divine nature. [Paper 142:3.3, page 1598.4]

…. At all times and during all ages the true worship of any human being — as concerns individual spiritual progress — is recognized by the indwelling spirit as homage rendered to the Father in heaven. [Paper 142:3.8, page 1598.9]

The teachers of the religion of Jesus should approach other religions with the recognition of the truths which are held in common (many of which come directly or indirectly from Jesus’ message) while they refrain from placing so much emphasis on the differences. [Paper 149:2.5, page 1670.6]

The future of Urantia will doubtless be characterized by the appearance of teachers of religious truth — the Fatherhood of God and the fraternity of all creatures. But it is to be hoped that the ardent and sincere efforts of these future prophets will be directed less toward the strengthening of interreligious barriers and more toward the augmentation of the religious brotherhood of spiritual worship among the many followers of the differing intellectual theologies which so characterize Urantia of Satania. [Paper 92:5.16, page 1010.4]

The Zoroastrians had a religion of morals; the Hindus a religion of metaphysics; the Confucianists a religion of ethics. Jesus lived a religion of service. All these religions are of value in that they are valid approaches to the religion of Jesus. Religion is destined to become the reality of the spiritual unification of all that is good, beautiful, and true in human experience. [Paper 5:4.7, page 67.5]

Just as certainly as men share their religious beliefs, they create a religious group of some sort which eventually creates common goals. Someday religionists will get together and actually effect co-operation on the basis of unity of ideals and purposes rather than attempting to do so on the basis of psychological opinions and theological beliefs. Goals rather than creeds should unify religionists. Since true religion is a matter of personal spiritual experience, it is inevitable that each individual religionist must have his own and personal interpretation of the realization of that spiritual experience. Let the term “faith” stand for the individual’s relation to God rather than for the creedal formulation of what some group of mortals have been able to agree upon as a common religious attitude. “Have you faith? Then have it to yourself.” [Paper 99:5.7, page 1091.6]

One of the most eventful of all the evening conferences at Amathus was the session having to do with the discussion of spiritual unity. James Zebedee had asked, “Master, how shall we learn to see alike and thereby enjoy more harmony among ourselves?” When Jesus heard this question, he was stirred within his spirit, so much so that he replied: “James, James, when did I teach you that you should all see alike? I have come into the world to proclaim spiritual liberty to the end that mortals may be empowered to live individual lives of originality and freedom before God. I do not desire that social harmony and fraternal peace shall be purchased by the sacrifice of free personality and spiritual originality.

What I require of you, my apostles, is spirit unity — and that you can experience in the joy of your united dedication to the wholehearted doing of the will of my Father in heaven. You do not have to see alike or feel alike or even think alike in order spiritually to be alike. Spiritual unity is derived from the consciousness that each of you is indwelt, and increasingly dominated, by the spirit gift of the heavenly Father. Your apostolic harmony must grow out of the fact that the spirit hope of each of you is identical in origin, nature, and destiny.

“In this way you may experience a perfected unity of spirit purpose and spirit understanding growing out of the mutual consciousness of the identity of each of your indwelling Paradise spirits; and you may enjoy all of this profound spiritual unity in the very face of the utmost diversity of your individual attitudes of intellectual thinking, temperamental feeling, and social conduct.

Your personalities may be refreshingly diverse and markedly different, while your spiritual natures and spirit fruits of divine worship and brotherly love may be so unified that all who behold your lives will of a surety take cognizance of this spirit identity and soul unity; they will recognize that you have been with me and have thereby learned, and acceptably, how to do the will of the Father in heaven. You can achieve the unity of the service of God even while you render such service in accordance with the technique of your own original endowments of mind, body, and soul.

“Your spirit unity implies two things, which always will be found to harmonize in the lives of individual believers: First, you are possessed with a common motive for life service; you all desire above everything to do the will of the Father in heaven. Second, you all have a common goal of existence; you all purpose to find the Father in heaven, thereby proving to the universe that you have become like him.”

Many times during the training of the twelve Jesus reverted to this theme. Repeatedly he told them it was not his desire that those who believed in him should become dogmatized and standardized in accordance with the religious interpretations of even good men. Again and again he warned his apostles against the formulation of creeds and the establishment of traditions as a means of guiding and controlling believers in the gospel of the kingdom. [Paper 141:5.1-4, pages 1591.6 – 1592.2]

I would assert from the above references that the proclamation of the religion of Jesus is effectively and essentially the practice of interfaith dialogue and outreach. The revelators have issued the challenge and it is up to each individual to decide whether or not to take it up:

Religion does need new leaders, spiritual men and women who will dare to depend solely on Jesus and his incomparable teachings. If Christianity persists in neglecting its spiritual mission while it continues to busy itself with social and material problems, the spiritual renaissance must await the coming of these new teachers of Jesus’ religion who will be exclusively devoted to the spiritual regeneration of men. [Paper 195:9.4, page 2082.9]( Emphasis added)

Who can doubt that we are living in extraordinary times! If we sow the incomparable teachings of Jesus’ gospel, the Jesusonian gospel, we are bound to experience a bumper harvest of spiritually regenerated men and women…a spiritual renaissance. Will we accept the challenge and depend solely on Jesus and his gospel of liberation? Now is the time to decide!

All Urantia is waiting for the proclamation of the ennobling message of Michael, unencumbered by the accumulated doctrines and dogmas of nineteen centuries of contact with the religions of evolutionary origin. The hour is striking for presenting to Buddhism, to Christianity, to Hinduism, even to the peoples of all faiths, not the gospel about Jesus, but the living, spiritual reality of the gospel of Jesus. [Paper 94:12.7, page 1041.5]