Living the Gospel and Proclaiming with Power in the 21st Century

(Editor’s note: This is from a presentation given at the 2018 Urantia Association International conference in the Netherlands)

Stand under the waterfall … Allow yourselves to be drenched in the beauty of Jesus’ many-sided gospel. We can know God as a loving and merciful Father, who has sent his spirit to live within us. We are free to use our own language to name him in the way that expresses our own spiritual discovery. We know that we are part of a world-wide family that is slowly evolving toward a high destiny in a process that is now going through a difficult and dangerous transition, one that will eventually lead to a new civilization based upon post-materialistic meanings and values.  

We want the whole world to know Jesus’ life-giving truth, and we know how to proclaim. As Jesus bestowed his life upon us, we proclaim by our lives of thought, word, and deed. We fill our hearts with love, serve as we are able, and speak truth as the opportunity arises. Yes, we live in difficult times for the gospel. But as we follow Jesus, the “calm and happy laborer,” we sustain our poise. So how shall we rise to the level of power where our living becomes a proclaiming to our generation in this 21st century?  

Let’s strengthen ourselves by learning to love God and the neighbor fully.  

What does it mean to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength?  

The heart is the center of our motivation. So, to reinforce our love for God, we pursue every other value or project in a way that harmonizes with our first love. But what will move us to do so? One answer is found in the teaching that we can “know God, receive the divine affection, and love him in return” [1:0.2]. To work with this teaching, we begin by taking the time to bring to mind God as we truly know him, not only our knowledge about God, for example, that he is a creator, controller, and upholder.  

Knowing our Father arises from his intimate and personal relationship with us, so we put our knowledge about him into that context. We don’t stare at the idea of a controller, but we gaze into our Father’s presence, delighting that he establishes wise laws for every level of creation. Knowing God feels good. In the friendly energies, we recognize the divine affection. As we abide in our Father’s love, the realization grows on us that we can love, too, and the heart’s motivation to love him in return grows naturally. I call this the first circuit of love.  

Artist: Carlos Rubinsky

Jesus once defined the soul as the part of us which is “self-reflective, truth-discerning, and spirit-perceiving” [133:6.5]. So, for example, when our moral self-consciousness tells us that our love needs an upgrade, we pause to discern the truth for our situation. And when truth dawns in its beauty and goodness, we turn to spirit and pour forth new love.  

To love God with all our mind, we sharpen our powers of intuition into material, intellectual, and spiritual reality. The more we know the Creator and the creation, the more we mobilize the mind in our supreme desire to do the Father’s will.  

To love God with all our strength involves will power and determination, so that our good decisions have the “force and constancy” that they need to shape our character. And there is moral strength, the power of righteousness, the gift of God. And we also mobilize physical strength for “the task immediately in hand.”

In the first circuit of love, another realization grows on us: our Father loves everyone. And the love that we receive from him is what we are to give to others. This realization leads us into the second circuit of love, “the great circuit of love … from the Father, through sons to brothers, and hence to the Supreme” [117:6.10]. 

In order to love the neighbor fully, let’s look at the golden rule—Do to others as you want others to do to you. This rule, as Jesus’ explained, can be interpreted on six levels [147:4.1].  

The first level, the level of the flesh, we can take as an occasion to acknowledge our own unbeautifulness, arising from our animal-origin nature and inherited urges. When some of this ugliness begins to creep into our relations with another person, we can ask, “If I were that person, how would I like to be treated?” This question sends us back to Jesus’ teachings on self-mastery [143:2.4].  

Next comes the level of the feelings, specifically sympathy and pity. Jesus expressed both of these in a way that was uplifting and consistent with each of the higher levels. And he developed sympathy by going to extraordinary lengths to get to know people.  

Next, the level of mind brings in reason and experience. Jesus required the apostles to gain experience in personal ministry before preaching publicly on social media. And just as Jesus led them in the study of the scriptures, we should look for gems in other people’s sources of inspiration—religious, New Age, and secular.  

The level of brotherly love is:  

… wholehearted social service growing out of the consciousness of the fatherhood of God and the consequent recognition of the brotherhood of man”. Brotherly love is prepared to serve anyone; and Jesus had special regard for “overburdened, anxious, and dejected mortals. [Paper 132:4.2, page 1460.6]  

Next comes the moral level. We can be sympathetic, intelligent, and beautifully motivated to serve … without being wise. In the moral level, our perspective grows when we “attain true philosophic levels of interpretation, … have real insight into the rightness and wrongness of things, … perceive the eternal fitness of human relationships” [147:4.8].  

Jesus lived and taught a wise principle of teaching that connects with two universal moral teachings. First, we are always to show adequate respect for the experience and endowments of our seniors and superiors. Our loyal superiors in every epochal revelation have honored a cosmic principle of teaching truth. As Jesus said to the miller, “In your living and loving ministry serve spiritual food in attractive form and suited to the capacity of receptivity of each of your inquirers” [133:4.2]. I call this the receptivity principle.  

Don’t overteach. Don’t try to show the beauties of the temple to people who are not in the temple. This principle illustrates a second moral teaching, that we are always to be considerate of the limitations and inexperience of our juniors and subordinates. For Jesus, the receptivity principle was a way of life. He became “expert in the divine art of revealing his Paradise Father to all ages and stages of mortal creatures” [127:6.15]. This principle implies that we normally make sure that someone is in the spiritual family of God through faith in some gospel truths before we introduce The Urantia Book.  

Now we are ready for level six, the spiritual level—to treat others as we conceive God would treat them, in other words, to do to all men that which we know that Jesus would do to them in like circumstances.  

When circumstances require it, fatherly love can speak with great power. Perhaps we need it now. Jesus once said, “Even divine love has its severe disciplines” [143:1.4]. 

This was part of:

“…one of the most impassioned addresses which Jesus ever delivered to the twelve. Seldom did the Master speak to his apostles with evident strong feeling, but this was one of those few occasions when he spoke with manifest earnestness, accompanied by marked emotion.  

The result upon the public preaching and personal ministry of the apostles was immediate; from that very day their message took on a new note of courageous dominance. The twelve continued to acquire the spirit of positive aggression in the new gospel of the kingdom.” [Paper 143:1.8-9, pages 1608-1608]  

Or read this passage, where Jesus’ exhorts, not in anger and contempt, but with a love that lifts up his hearers.  

You who have professed entrance into the kingdom of heaven are altogether too vacillating and indefinite in your teaching conduct. The heathen strike directly for their objectives; you are guilty of too much chronic yearning. If you desire to enter the kingdom, why do you not take it by spiritual assault even as the heathen take a city they lay siege to? You are hardly worthy of the kingdom when your service consists so largely in an attitude of regretting the past, whining over the present, and vainly hoping for the future. Why do the heathen rage? Because they know not the truth. Why do you languish in futile yearning? Because you obey not the truth. Cease your useless yearning and go forth bravely doing that which concerns the establishment of the kingdom. [Paper 155:1.3, page 1725.4]  

If we spend as much of our free time as we can on The Urantia Book movement and flee from the difficulties of the gospel movement apart from that, we need to be shaken up with the Spirit of Truth that was poured out on Pentecost. Said Jesus, “In the gospel resides the mighty Spirit of Truth” [178:1.3]. There’s the power we need.  

We don’t know how dark the storms that are brewing will become, nor when the spiritual renaissance will break forth, but we shall trust Jesus and “depend wholly on him for safe conduct throughout the unrevealed vicissitudes” of the 21st century [120:1.3].  

The ecological crisis makes it difficult to believe in an evolutionary process with a high destiny for our future. The masses of immigrants and refugees exemplifies mass human suffering that make people wonder where God is; diverse social, economic and political antagonisms make it hard to believe in the brotherhood of man; and blind and ignorant rejection of religion make it hard to communicate the Fatherhood of God. Intellectually, we have answers, and the power to live and proclaim them comes from the Spirit.  

Pentecost endowed mortal man with the power to forgive personal injuries, to keep sweet in the midst of the gravest injustice, to remain unmoved in the face of appalling danger, and to challenge the evils of hate and anger by the fearless acts of love and forbearance. [Paper 194:3.12, page 2064.4]  

Next, I pose this one question for you: What is your greatest difficulty in proclaiming, and how do you find that these teachings help with that difficulty?  

Happy loving!