Any of us who have practiced any type of religion know how confusing it can be to try to decipher and remember all of the seemingly arbitrary rules that religion can impose on us. We want to live within God’s will for us, but at times it seems nearly impossible to know what that means.
Religious texts often focus on mundane details about the food we eat, the cloths we wear, the length of our hair, the way we pray or worship, or how to act on particular days of the week or calendar day. Cultural changes and the evolution of language make it especially difficult to translate and interpret the context and meaning of texts written thousands of years ago.
Many theologians and religious scholars devote their entire lives to interpreting the meaning of religious texts. Yet, we still face uncertainties and ambiguities which often fuel divisiveness and conflict between and within religious groups.
So, what happens if we miss something? What if something gets misinterpreted in translation? What if we follow the wrong denomination or sect? Will God condemn us? Will we fail to receive the full benefits of our relationship with God? If so, it seems that God’s gifts are available to very few.
Love: A Common Theme
A common theme that appears in nearly every religion is that to live God’s will, we must live in love. All of the confusing and seemingly arbitrary rules exist to keep us inline with the principles of love. When the thoughts and action of our lives are a reflection of our love for God, ourselves and each other, we will be living God’s will.
Jesus Christ’s Apostle, Paul, repeats this theme multiple times:
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not covet,’ and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
When we truly love others, naturally, we will not rob, kill or harm them in any way. Our actions will be charitable. And, our hearts will be fulfilled, thus removing any tendency toward materialism, greed or judgment.
The Buddha stated that one who removes barriers to love and lives in love has no need for rules or laws. Their behavior would be naturally virtuous:
All rule and ritual left behind, all
karma blamable and praiseworthy, not
concerning himself with cleansing nor
with stains may one freely fare.
A Course In Miracles takes this a step further by asserting that God and Love are synonymous. And, since we were created by God, God’s love exists in us. We need only remove the barriers to love and we are one with God:
God is but love, and therefore, so am I.
We were born with the ability to recognize good and bad. The need for rules and rituals exists only when we are distracted from our hearts. Most rules of religion aim to remove these distractions. By living in accordance with the principles of love, we can simplify our search for God’s will and know that we are manifesting what God wants.