Our personal relationship with Jesus is inclusive not divisive

Estimated read time 4 min read

The exact definition of a Christian beyond being a follower of Jesus Christ while uniting millions in a general sense but also divides us when we get into denominational specifics. I remember our former Southeast Florida Bishop, Leo Friday, used to tell us how different cultures visualized Jesus in art differently. Our tendencies to individualize Jesus based upon our experience and cultural inheritance should not be a force of division but instead of inclusion. Different people and cultures may see Jesus differently in details not relevant to his main message of love God and thy neighbor. Getting caught up the weeds of theological hypothetical discussions creates unnecessary division in God’s creation.

As a young boy my first experiences with Christianity came from two different sources in my family. My late mother was the daughter of a Presbyterian Elder who traced their lineage to colonial America while my late father was a Mexican immigrant physician from central Mexico and with a strong Roman Catholic tradition. Growing up in South Texas in a predominately Hispanic culture I ultimately decided to be Roman Catholic. Not based on doctrine or theology, to be honest I did not delve into that much, but this decision was based on solving my own identity conflicts. Being Roman Catholic was an easier fix.

Now in the seventh decade of my life I am and have been for almost the past twenty years a Christian worshiping in the Episcopal Church. This destination was arrived through many scars and revelations of life, a dedicated study of Christian history and scripture, living and working in many countries including two years in the United Arab Emirates and ten years in Ethiopia. My view of Christ is quite different then when I was the confused young man growing up in Texas.

I have experienced many people who believe in God in a different way then I do who are moral people working for the common good as a faith based directive. While carrying for war victims of ISIS as a foreign allied medical consultant to the United Arab Emirates military I saw members of the Red Crescent, the Muslim version of the Red Cross and the government of the UAE, help many Iraqi victims who were not Muslim get aid and health care. During my decade in Ethiopia I have taught many Muslim medical students and trained Muslim neurosurgery residents which involved seeing them treat also Christians as their own family.

The followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which is partly based on Syriac Christianity and the unique Ethiopian history is intensely interwoven in the daily lives of its followers. Similarly the Muslims in Ethiopia remember that Christians gave the followers of Mohammed refuge during early Muslim formation. They have learned to respect each other and even admire each other’s pious nature. Muslims see Jesus as a prophet, born of Virgin Mary, and will come again in the end times.

All the Ethiopian neurosurgery residents, fellows, and graduate neurobiology students I have trained I greatly admire whether they were Muslim or Ethiopian Orthodox or the occasional Catholic Irob. I honestly think of them like my own sons and daughters.

Within the Christian “sphere” the message of love God and love thy neighbor is for the most part observed by most Christians in their charitable efforts to others. However there is definite distinction in what I would call tribal identity. For example in Florida there are some evangelical churches that tend to label their members as “knowing Christ” and outsiders as not knowing Christ merely by virtue of their membership or not.

Whilst the Episcopal Church welcomes all baptized Christians to take communion in worship the Roman Catholic Church still considers itself the only “real church” that can baptize. Yet I have become an avid fan of Fr. Richard Rohr, a world recognized Catholic friar, and Rev. Barbara Brown Taylor, Episcopalian who seem to come to agreement somewhat that we get too wrapped up in theology and forget the basics of love God, appreciate all of his creation, and most especially love our neighbor because we are all of his creation.

Professor Tony Magana https://myfindinggrace.com

Dr. Tony Magana is Professor Emeritus in Neurosurgery who spent many years doing international teaching and research including 10 years in Ethiopia. Over the past 15 years he concomitantly intensified his Christian faith through study and worship through the Episcopal Church. He grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Attended Texas A&M University, Harvard Medical School, and trained at the University of Miami. Additionally he took the University of South Education for Ministry as well as attending the Southeast Florida Episcopal Diocesan School for Christian Studies.
Professor Tony Magana, a seasoned neurosurgeon, has not only dedicated his life to medical practice but also embarked on a profound spiritual journey. Over the past 15 years, he has deepened his Christian faith through study and worship within the Episcopal Church. His experiences span international teaching, research, and a decade of service in Ethiopia
Dr. Tony Magana’s writings blend faith, compassion, and wisdom, inviting readers to explore the intersection of spirituality and the human experience. His journey serves as an inspiration for those seeking deeper connections with faith and humanity.

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