By the time I’d finished high school I felt like I had been prepared to defend my faith pretty well. I knew all of the supporting verses that explained when we should worship, what foods we should eat, and what kinds of entertainment we should allow into our minds. In addition, I knew the fundamental beliefs of my denomination. And I felt confident pointing out flaws in evolutionary theory, atheism, and popular culture. I thought that’s what Christians were supposed to do—justify their beliefs to the rest of the world. I thought our job was to prove that we were right.
There was really just one major obstacle in my ideology, a glaring counter to my way of thinking. It might seem strange that the very namesake of my faith was also the strongest indictment of how I was enacting it. But my thoughts on how a Christian was supposed to be were constantly being challenged by the life of Jesus. Something just didn’t match up between the two. There wasn’t one single moment I can point to as the turning point, but over the past several years, I believe the main difference between Jesus’ faith and the one I’d held for so long came down to kindness.
Obeying God, Not Men
Aside from defending people from abusive leadership, it doesn’t seem like Jesus wasted a lot of time arguing. If anything, He cut through the clutter of religious jargon and tradition that had built up by that time. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus says “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Did I want others to try to shame me? Of course not. Did I want others to constantly be searching for ways to prove that they were right and I was wrong? I did not. So why then was I so focused on justifying myself to the world?
As I write this, I hear the echoes of Peter in Acts 5:29. Brought before their own religious authorities, Peter and the other apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men!”
My God is kind. My Jesus spent his ministry healing, sitting with outcasts and sinners, and reaching his hands out to those who had been pushed down. He sat with the woman at the well, touched the lepers, rescued the adulteress, and called the little children to come to him. In Jesus the world saw the true heart of God embodied. In Jesus today we see a powerful, often countercultural example against any faith that is not born of love and kindness–including our own. Kindness isn’t meant to be an addition to our life of faith. It’s meant to be foundational to it.
Even if our own culture and religious tradition pressures us toward something different, I believe we stand in the same position the apostles did–a choice between listening to God or listening to human beings.
Kaleb Eisele writes from the Pacific Northwest.
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