I’ve yet to read a book on Buddhism that gets it right on how God views us. Take, for example, this paragraph in a book titled Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha:
“The message of ‘original sin’ is unequivocal: Because of our basically flawed nature, we do not deserve to be happy, loved by others, at ease with life. We are outcasts, and if we are to reenter the garden, we must redeem our sinful selves. We must overcome our flaws by controlling our bodies, controlling our emotions, controlling our natural surroundings, controlling other people. And we must strive tirelessly — working, acquiring, consuming, achieving, e-mailing, over-committing and rushing — in a never-ending quest to prove ourselves once and for all.”
Wow. Just reading that hurts my heart. Because it’s simply not true. Let’s discuss.
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God IS Radical Acceptance
In truth, I find Buddhist teachings to offer many nuggets of wisdom. But the teachings fall short of the freedom and self-acceptance we gain through a personal relationship with Christ. It’s not about you and me redeeming ourselves. It’s about our allowing Him to do so.
God became human to demonstrate His radical love and acceptance of us. In choosing to take on our sins as He hung from the cross, Jesus liberated us from our “striving tirelessly” to “redeem our sinful selves.” Just ask the thief hanging on the cross next to Jesus: fully accepted and welcomed, just because he humbly asked.
We each know the depth of our personal shame and failings. So desperate are we to jettison our self-loathing, that we’ve devised many ways to attempt to do so. For some it’s religion. For others it’s people-pleasing. For others it’s some form of numbing. Many do strive to earn their value through their endless busyness or good deeds.
But only one path frees us from our “never-ending quest to prove ourselves once and for all”: God.
Our accepting His radical acceptance of us fully wipes our slates clean, over and over again, as we bring ourselves to Him. God is the only source that can truly soften the daily suffering and struggle that is part of being human. God is FOR us, 24/7.
Buddhism teaches that attachment is the cause of suffering; that Nirvana is finally reached when one fully liberates from all attachment. But I can so clearly see that it’s my attachment to Christ that has given me freedom.
As I more fully trust in who He says that I am (forgiven, accepted, loved, wanted, valued, etc.), I am more able to accept myself, and grow in my ability to look more like Him: patient, kind, selfless, self-controlled, loving, forgiving. I can turn my gaze outward, to be of service to others, by getting my focus off of myself.
Like Christianity, Buddhism has rules of conduct. Rules that encourage one to live to a high standard that honors others over self. I’m all for that. But it is relationship, not rules, that imbues Christianity with such life-changing power. Through Christ we gain a personal relationship with God. God always sees our highest selves, despite how we might currently show up. He is the God of a million chances. Our loving Creator who cares to be in relationship with us. That blows my mind.
We’re all prodigal sons and daughters trying to find our way home. Jesus warmly invites us to “Come and see” (to steal the slogan from The Chosen) that He truly is The Way to peace and love and self-acceptance.
Jesus becomes our “why” and our “how,” as we choose to follow Him.
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