We often hear from modern ministers that one must be “saved” in order to have eternal life. This Salvation is an adherence to doctrine that Jesus is the only way to God. Yet throughout the New Testament, Jesus gives a somewhat different answer to this very question.
Two verses that come to mind are Matthew 25:35-46 and Luke 10:25-37
Matthew 25:35-46King James Version (KJV)
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Luke 10:25-37King James Version (KJV)
25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?
30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
In one passage Jesus tells His followers that those who help others are helping (by proxy) God itself. Doing such as that He says, will save them. Contrasting that, He also mentioned that those who do not help others – do a grievance against God, which condemns them to punishment.
The second passage quoted above is very direct – a question arises, “What shall I do to have eternal life?” The answer was given from the questioner, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself,” to which Jesus responds that this is true – follow that and you will live (have eternal life.)
The quote from Luke has an interesting sub story, the questioner who asked how one can have eternal life is then asking Jesus to define the term neighbor used in “love thy neighbor as thyself.” This is quite important, far too often the modern approach to Christianity has been to help only those of “similar social status.”
Today some Christians and politicians sneer at the idea of helping Muslim refugees… citing as Jeb Bush did, that we should help only “Christian” refugees. That’s why it’s so important to understand what “neighbor” means – it isn’t about those we like, or those who are similar to us. A true neighbor is everyone and anyone.
The story of the Samaritan quoted above, was that a wealthy elite is beaten and left for dead by the edge of a road. All the other wealthy and elite avoid him in his problematic state (isolating themselves from him.) It is the least person on the road (the Samaritan) who lends aid.
To help understand this, let’s consider what the Samaritan was. Jesus was making an analogy to the people in attendance. For many at that time, a Samaritan was looked down upon (someone not trusted.) According to Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary (pg. 582) Samaria was a country at odds with Jewish people since about B.C. 500. In other words, the story here is to illustrate that someone we don’t trust (or they lack the trust of us) helps us the most – they are treating us as their neighbor and likewise we should do the same.
In other words, anyone and everyone can be our neighbor.
Today this story could be better illustrated with a figure like Donald Trump, being aided by a Muslim or an undocumented migrant. The person who is least likely to help, helps someone who couldn’t gain aid from all his friends and powerful allies. This is what being a true neighbor is.
It works both ways, first there is an aspect that we should be the good neighbors of others (helping those who might look down upon us.) Also, we shouldn’t look down upon others and see the potential for greatness within everyone.
What is Eternal Life?
I believe that “eternal life” is happening already, right this very moment. I believe that as Jesus said in Luke 17:21 – the Kingdom of God is within you.
Luke 17:21King James Version (KJV)
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Eternal Life is your spiritual nature. I believe we exist past our physical bodies, and that existence occurs even now. It isn’t something that “happens” when you die, it already IS.
Our own cosmology is made up of a dynamic existence – at one end of the spectrum we are ONE with God and at the other end we are at our worst mundane existence. Our awareness shifts to these different states. If we sit in prayer and meditation, we can shift our conscious awareness to a higher state that already IS.
Eternal Life described here in these passages, is the bliss of Divine Oneness. I believe that already is here now, but our mind and actions cause us to suffer. By hurting others, we hurt ourselves – we lock our mind into a mental state of pain and torment. The way out is as described by Jesus in those passages.
The Way to Eternal Life
- Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind
- Love thy neighbour as thyself.
- Give Food to the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Let the stranger in
- Visit/help the sick
- Minister to those in prison
The acts above are explained by Jesus as the way to eternal life.
The Act of Giving
The Giving act itself isn’t the important aspect here. It isn’t the gift that wins you eternal life. It is rather the act itself, with regard to our conscious awareness. By giving with love and compassion towards another – especially to an enemy, we open our hearts and loosen our ego’s grasp.
Each of us have an ego – this “self identified with the body.” It lies to us and tells us, “this is who you are, this body… defend it from those other people… don’t let them take our sustenance, don’t give – or your body will have less.”
Truthfully we are far greater than our body. By understanding this, we can loosen the ego’s grasp and be more comfortable with giving aid to others – even if that means we ourselves will have less.
How this works, is that Jesus said it in Luke 17:21 – the Kingdom of God is within us. Within you and me, right now. It’s within a murderer and saint alike. The difference is, each of us acts out our own life experience from our ego nature – clouding the Divine source within.
As God is within us, that also means we are (at some point) one with God already. There is a boundary layer, a union a yoke within us right now. In the East they would say it is your heart center (center of your chest) where a spiritual center resides, connecting you to the source of creation. Whether that is true or not, there is a point within your spirit that is One with God already.
If we are One with God – so are others. By doing good to them, we are by extension doing it unto God. This is described in Matthew 25:35-46.
Finding The Kingdom of God
To find the Kingdom of God, one must read scripture – what calls to you and is of spiritual nature is what you should spend your time reading. It could be the Bible, or the Bhagavad Gita. Listen to your heart and if you can not hear it, start where you are. Pick up a Bible or Holy Book at your ready… or go online and look up a Holy Book.
But the pathway to the inner Kingdom of the Holy Divine source, is to go within. It is in the shutting of the senses and tuning your conscious awareness to the subtle forces that guide you. In that silence you can find the source.
St. Augustine reported his own findings in Book 7 of his Confessions (which I’ll write about another time.) His findings were very similar to the reported results of Buddhists, Hindu’s and other spiritual seekers around the world.
Seek first God with your whole being… and love your neighbor as yourself… do good to others… this is the way to Eternal Life, through the Kingdom of God that resides within you.