I realize I have not posted in quite some time, but I recently read an incredible story which sparked me to start writing again.
The story was about a man who was born and raised modestly, mostly just doing his work and whatever his parents told him to do. But his parents saw something special in him from the moment he was born. Most people did not even notice him at first, but his parents – especially his father – were convinced that he would change the world some day. As a young man, his charisma and intelligence far surpassed that of his peers. Thus, the educated adults in the area began to see his potential early on.
As time went on, he – like many great historical leaders – began gaining considerable influence. And he – like many great historical leaders – became the target of both heavy praise and harsh criticism. Now, I am not sure if you would agree, but it seems to me that truly great people (and I mean those driven by a higher purpose than power, money, etc.) die young more often than not. It is as though the world cannot tolerate authentic goodness. Notice that Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., many great men of the Bible, etc. were murdered for nothing other than their noble efforts to bring virtue into the world. This man was no different.
I do not doubt he would have christened himself a man of God, and accurately so. He often traveled to homeless shelters to feed the residents and, more importantly, to remind them of their value and give them hope. Further, he frequented the local bars where he spent time with the roughest people, those with the worst reputations, and he simply talked with them. Through these visits he wanted to show them something they had likely never witnessed: love.
Now, when I say, “love,” I do not mean anything romantic or strictly emotional. No, this was real love. It was the tough, selfless love his father taught him early in life. He loved quite instinctively, and as far as I can see, his goal in engaging these rough people was – once again – to give them hope. He did not see them as vile, unpleasant people; he saw them as people in need of something more – something deeper. He knew that taking the time to pass through their territory and show them authentic religion (religion concerned with benefitting rather than condemning people) would likely impel them to do the same for others. Love in its purest form typically does spread this way.
Inevitably, this man – like many great historical leaders – gained a following. Those drawn to him were not typical, for he did not concern himself with the powerful, nor did he spend much time with “religious” folks. He was far more interested in those he could aid than in those who could aid him. Wherever he went, people were pleased to meet a powerful example of plain goodness. For the seemingly hopeless, a minute with him was a minute of joy. And although he gave much, he expected nothing in return; he only asked that people take his precedent and pass the love on to others.
Of course, this period of happiness could not last forever; none do in this crooked world. Incidentally it was the “religious” folks who turned against him first. They – as “religious” folks faced with pure religion often do – hated him for breaking their cherished customs. Further, they were offended that a man claiming to follow God would associate with such wicked people in such repulsive places.
And, as it turns out, it was a radical cult among the “religious” folks who killed him. This should not be surprising, seeing that “religious” people have a long history of doing such horrid things in the name of their religion (let’s not forget the Apostle Paul who first tried to serve God by killing Christians, or the Crusades for that matter). Of course this is a blatant contradiction; the “religious” folks should have known better. But only purely religious people focus on their own flaws (rather than focusing other people’s), and the “religious” folks I speak of (those who worry with the minor rules/policies of their religion, forgetting the essentials) are rarely the purely religious folks in any given community. The purely religious folks are generally too busy loving the world to worry with stiff, man-made regulations; especially those regulations which tend to stifle rather than motivate the truly religious life.
This man was certainly not afraid to point these things out to the “religious” folks. Perhaps this is why they killed him.
Now, often such good men are assassinated in a rush, being shot or stabbed. It happens in the blink of an eye, and suddenly they are gone. Sadly, this was not good enough for those who killed this man. They made his family and friends watch as they tortured him in a gory mess. It was not until he was naked and humiliated, had nearly bled to death, and could not even rise from ground that they finally finished him off. His closest friends and family could only sob hopelessly as they watched him fade away. But even as he was about to die, he – like many great martyrs of the past – was begging God to forgive the very people who were executing him.
This was not the first time, nor was it the last that a good man was taken from this world brutally and early in life. I often wonder if dying young is a sign of virtue; if the world is so corrupt that it kills the good people and preserves the foul ones, for it seems to me that this man – like many great leaders of the past – was simply too good for this world. And I think I was so inspired reading his story, because he – like many great leaders of the past – taught me how to be more than just a “religious” person; his story showed me how to be truly good. His story inspired me to forget being “religious”; to serve humanity instead. His story spurred me to crave a life worthy of the same cruel fate.
But I think, more than that, I was inspired by him because he – unlike any great leader of the past – was resurrected. I am inspired because he – like no one else – is the Son of God. I am inspired because Jesus – like none before or after – showed me more than a good life; he showed me the perfect life.
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.