If someone asked you what the most important belief was in the New Church, what would you say? Would you focus on the practical nature of the Lord’s teaching, namely that everyone goes to heaven based on how they live? Would you focus on the explanations of the inner meaning of the Word, on the clear teachings about life after death or about marriage?
These are all very powerful things, but when the Lord focuses on one teaching that is most important, it is about Him and who He is. The ‘first of all the commandments’ is that the Lord is one and that we are supposed to love Him. (Mark 12:29; Deut. 6:4) In the Heavenly Doctrines we’re told that the reason the New Church is the crown of all the churches that have existed up until now, is that we can worship the Lord as the one visible God:
True Christian Religion 786, 787
‘From the beginning there have been, generally speaking, four churches on this earth; one before the flood, one after the flood, a third the Israelite, and the fourth named Christian. Since all churches depend upon the knowledge and acknowledgment of one God, with whom a member of the church can be joined, and since all four churches lacked that truth, it follows that a church will take the place of those four, which will know and acknowledge one God... This new church is the crown of all the churches which have up to now existed upon earth, because it will worship one visible God, in whom is the invisible God, as the soul is in the body. In this way and no other is God's conjunction with humankind possible, because people are natural and so think in a natural fashion. Joining must take place in their thinking and so in the affection of their love, and this happens when a person thinks of God as Man. Joining with an invisible God is like joining the sight of the eye with the expanse of the universe, the bounds of which are not to be seen. Or it is like looking out in the middle of an ocean, when the gaze falls on air and sea and is frustrated. But joining with a visible God is like seeing a person in the air or the sea opening his arms and inviting you into his embrace.’
This is such a striking statement, in part because it says that the Most Ancient Church – the most spiritual people that have existed in this world – also worshipped an invisible God. And that the New Church is the crown of all churches, because we can now worship a God we can see in our mind’s eye, when we turn to Him as the Lord Jesus Christ and do what He asks.
The importance of knowing our God in strengthened by the teaching in True Christian Religion 2: ‘the faith of the new heaven and the new church is in universal terms as follows: The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to subdue the hells and to glorify His Human. Without this no mortal could have been saved, and those are saved who believe in Him.’ So, in the broadest terms, the New Church is about the Lord and who He is, because in coming to know Him, in turning to Him and serving Him, we open ourselves up to the blessings He seeks to offer us.
I’m guessing that you, like me, spend much of your spiritual focus working on being a kinder, more loving person to those around you and that you do this by shunning evil and doing what is good. This is so important because we love the Lord by loving those around us. But it is good to remember that at its root, spiritual living is about coming to know and love our Lord. This is why He asks us, in addition to serving others, to spend time learning about Him and communicating with Him through attending church, taking Holy Supper, prayer, reading the Word and reflecting on what He says. That is why He gives us so many teachings about Himself, such as in the work Divine Providence, where He explains His eternal priorities for our governance.
Perhaps we all could usefully spend a bit more time reflecting on who the Lord is, what He has done for us and then giving thanks for His powerful presence in our lives.