Spirit & Truth #2 – Redemption

As human beings, we all fall sometimes. I think in some sense we are all destined to at some point in our lives. If we do not, we cannot truly learn how to be better people. It is in the mistakes we make that we learn valuable lessons. We begin to recognize right from wrong, we get a better sense of the people we choose to surround ourselves with, we understand how we can live a good and godly life.

Throughout our lives, we will inevitably find ourselves in circumstances where we have taken a wrong step on our path, or strayed down the wrong one. We might do or say something that we deeply regret. We might make a choice that does more harm than good. In fact, the harm it does may not even be to others, but to ourselves. It may affect the way others see us, and that can in turn be detrimental to our own sense of happiness, our mental health.

As a Christian, I believe everyone has a shot at redemption. Everyone is able to be redeemed. Through Christ, redemption is possible for each and every one of us. That is the beauty of the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for us all when He gave His own life for our own, when He willingly went to His death upon the Cross. In Christ’s case, He had done no wrong. He was not deserving of the condemnation He received. We are truly not worthy of all that He has done for us. Yet we all get that chance. Redemption is available for all of us, no matter how we have fallen, no matter what has caused us to fall.

God rights our wrongs. He has done this since the beginning. The first time humanity fell was in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, fell to temptation, and consumed the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is why we are all inherently susceptible to wrongdoing, to corruption. It goes back to our very first ancestors. We could have all been doomed to die without any hope of salvation, any hope of redemption. But God loves us so much that He made the ultimate sacrifice to save us so that we may live in eternal paradise with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven. John 3:16 encapsulates this great sacrifice, indeed the entire Gospel, best:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

There is so much power in that sacrifice. There is so much love. Each and every one of us is loved by God. We are each carefully created in His own image. We are not perfect, but we are still loved by Him. And although we stumble, although we fall, we are still given the chance to be redeemed through His Son, Jesus Christ. Although we struggle, although we fail to live as God would want us to, we are granted redemption through the sacrifice He made for us. This is further reiterated in Romans:

God puts us right through our faith in Jesus Christ, and this is applied to all who believe. For there is no distinction of persons, because all have sinned and all have fallen short of the glory of God; and all are put right with God freely by His grace through the redemption effected in Jesus Christ. – Romans 3:22-24

No one should be denied a shot at redemption. No one should be so harshly judged by their peers on Earth that they are deemed incapable of change if they have merely made a mistake, if they have naively made the wrong choices. We all have pasts, we all probably live with some regret, some more than others. But no one should be cast out and thrown aside because of that.

I believe that we should not judge others because of their past mistakes. Yes, they made errors. Yes, they made the wrong decisions. But that should not dictate their entire life henceforth. They should be given a chance at redemption. They may have come a long way since then, no doubt battling inner demons like regret. They do not, however, deserve to be an outcast. No one is incapable of redemption. They deserve, at the very least, to be given the opportunity to explain their errors of judgement, to clear the air. Because it is highly likely that they have learnt a valuable lesson, and it would be beneficial for society to hear what the individual has grasped.

I think, particularly in modern society, human beings can be truly petty. They can hold something against someone and use it as an excuse to alienate them for the foreseeable future. In a world where we are quick to judge people on the errors and regrets of their past, we have somehow managed to keep stooping to new lows. Certain groups of people target individuals and attempt to “cancel” them based on a tweet from ten years ago. They refuse to let people work with them, maybe even refusing them a voice on their platform, because of mistakes they made years ago. Some might even demonize or warn others off of a person because of this. If we as human beings keep acting in such ways, we are only going to hurt others, and likely alienate ourselves from them in the process.

For Christians especially, we cannot claim to be truly Christian when we do such things as those mentioned above. We should act in good faith and allow others the opportunity to show us that they have redeemed themselves. We must act like Jesus did when He lived among us on this very Earth. We must act like God our Creator did when He made the ultimate sacrifice in giving His Only Son so that we could merely have the chance to be redeemed. God never had to do that for us. Yet He did. And that in itself should be a thought that lingers on each of our minds, especially when we consider someone who has taken a misstep or been led astray but has learnt from that and found a way back through the redemption that God our Father offers to each one of us.

There is a famous statue that sits atop the Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, the capital city of Brazil. It is the heart of the nation. Each year, it is visited by around two million people. It is a symbol of Christianity across the globe, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But I think it gains that title from far more than just being a mere symbol of the Christian faith. It is representative of our redemption, of how humanity, despite our inherent failings, is and can continue to be redeemed through the selfless actions of God our Father, and Christ our Redeemer.

Spirit & Truth is a series focusing on our humanity and our connection with God. Each edition will draw into focus one aspect of human life and explore it in some depth. Spirit and truth are the keys to living a good and godly life.

God is spirit and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth. – John 4:24

Spirit & Truth #1 – Praise

Some of the most difficult times in life arise from the unknown. I think, as human beings, we can be so consumed by what is not known to us, what is known only to God. It drives us to a point of fear, of impatience and of sorrow. We struggle to contend with the seemingly infinite number of possibilities that swarm our minds. We worry about certain possibilities becoming our reality. It is this uncertainty and the fear it creates that can begin to inhibit our ability to function to the best of our ability and put us in a position where we begin to question our faith, and question God.

There have been times, particularly over the last few years, where I have been faced with unknowns that have spurned worry and doubt in my mind. Even over the last few months there have been things that have not gone the way I expected, the way I hoped they would. It brings you to a point where you question what God is doing, why things are happening the way they are.

I have talked before about God’s timing, about how His timing is perfect, even when it may not align with our own. Sometimes I think we can become impatient with Him. We struggle to understand why something that we have prayed for repeatedly for weeks or even months or years has still not come to fruition. It may be that God has what we are hoping for in store for us, but it is just not the right time by His plans yet. He may be telling us “not yet”, to wait, to be patient. He will manifest what we are hoping for, or some version of it, in due course, but it will be on His time, not on ours.

I think we can sometimes fall into the abyss of despair as hope slowly slips from our grip. We struggle to hold onto it when things are not going our way, when the unknown becomes all too consuming. And that realm of the unknown can be scary, it can be foreboding. It is not easy to contend with something that is only known truly to someone else, and to God. We may have concerns about an aspect of our life that is not in our control yet is of great importance to us. I know that I have struggled with this kind of thing personally, I have found myself getting anxious about what is not known to me, of what is hidden from my mind. It is as if a storm cloud is hanging over your head and your heart. It creates a shadow of darkness that is difficult escape. You cannot really do anything about it. All you can do is hope, pray, and give it to God.

I was discussing this topic with a friend recently. We were both experiencing this kind of despair at different unknowns in our lives. Our situations were different, but the line of thinking was similar. One thing we discussed was how, despite our wishes for God to intervene, to help us out, He seemed to be taking too long. We both took some comfort in prayer, although it can be challenging to rely solely upon faith. But sometimes faith is all we have, and it does provide us with a sense of hope, no matter how miniscule that hope may be.

Upon further discussion, another way of praying was brought to my attention: Praise. Even though I had just been teaching my Scripture class about prayers of Praise, I never really considered using such prayer in the face of challenging situations. Praise would usually be associated with connotations of happiness, of joy. One would not usually consider the negative or difficult aspects of their life when saying a prayer of Praise to God. But it is something that we can do, and in fact should do more.

When we are facing uncertainties, when we are facing unknowns, when we are staring down hardships and challenges, even when we have just had a bad day, we should turn to God and Praise Him for it. You might wonder why. Why should we praise God for the negative things in our lives, for the things that cause us to become anxious, to despair? It is a fair question. The answer is this: Because God teaches us the most valuable lessons through these times of fear, sorrow, and despair. He uses these times to highlight the good in our lives, the important parts of life that we should value the most. And often He uses these times to bring us closer to Him.

Sometimes when we are struggling with something, we can find it difficult to rely upon faith alone. We can find it difficult to trust in God. It is when we are traversing these times that we should praise God. Take the example of a bad day. Even on our worst days we have the opportunity to learn things. It may not be easy to think about the good that has come out of the bad, but it is likely there somewhere and it is up to us to find it, to focus on it, to thank God for it. It may take some time and patience to do this, but even then we are truly learning something; We are learning patience. And again, we can praise God for teaching us this incredibly valuable skill. He may help us to learn how to let go, and we can praise Him for it.

There are times when we will get frustrated at ourselves, when we will struggle to let things go, when we will find it hard to step away from things that are holding our hearts and minds hostage. In order to find some peace, we need to take some time to check ourselves, to get back to what matters, and to bring it back to God. Because God is good, and we should praise Him for all He does for us.

Spirit & Truth is a series focusing on our humanity and our connection with God. Each edition will draw into focus one aspect of human life and explore it in some depth. Spirit and truth are the keys to living a good and godly life.

God is spirit and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth. – John 4:24

The Self-Conscious Mind

Have you ever had a thought that was probably ridiculous, but to you it seemed real, it seemed like a possibility? Taking that thought, have you spent hours, maybe even days or weeks, just letting that thought run wild in your mind over and over, creating a whirlwind of anxiety, stress, worry, or whatever other negative emotions might present themselves? Your stomach drops, you begin to obsess over that thought, you begin to think it is reality itself. You have to do whatever you can to distract yourself from it, and, while you may succeed in the short-term, the thought eventually returns to the forefront of your mind, and you once again become consumed by it. It is a mentally taxing and exhausting process, yet difficult to keep at bay.

Have you ever had to make a decision, to formulate a message or a response or the like, and questioned every aspect of it, thinking of every possible outcome you can, arraying them in your mind, allowing them to occupy every inch of space there is inside? Subsequently, have you ever spent hours, days, or weeks trying to come to your final decision, to just make a choice and allow the events that will follow to play out, wasting countless hours that could have been spent actually getting on with life, living it to its full potential, even spending it in the splendour of a well-made decision?

This is what it is like to be self-conscious, to overthink things so much that you lose valuable time doing what you love, being with who you want to be with.

I’m going to say this from the outset: this is what I deal with on, at the very least, a semi-regular basis. I am quite self-conscious, more so when it comes to making decisions I consider to be of great importance, even life-changing, or when talking to people that I really want to get along with and connect more with on a deeper level. I never want to come across as being overbearing, as being annoying, and I never want to put someone off. That is why I sometimes spend more time thinking over what I might say to someone, whether or not I’ll send that message, whether or not I’ll take that opportunity. I consider every possible outcome I can think of, and that can be overwhelming. It is particularly so when the one outcome that always seems to come into focus is the worst possible one, stealing the limelight and forcing you to think about it far more than you would like to. It is hard to shake the thought that this outcome could be the one that transforms into reality. Sometimes I just have to take up the mantra of “no risk, no reward” and just do it, in the hope that one of the good outcomes will manifest.

Being someone who has anxiety, it is tough to deal with these sorts of moments. Times like those mentioned above are typically when the anxiety comes on more, escaping from the depths of the abyss and beginning its takeover of my mind and body. There are several ways that I deal with this: praying, writing, listening to music, watching something (usually an episode of a television series), exercising, cooking, or giving my little dog Ellie lots of hugs, pats, and attention. Sometimes, in the case of something that is really important to me that I really don’t want to mess up, I go see my psychologist and talk it out, because talking to someone about it can really help. It lets you take that swirling thought out of your mind and put it in front of you, so that you can better process it.

I think that being so self-conscious stems from a history of being shy. Throughout my life, I have been quite shy, particularly in social situations where I’m meeting new people. To some degree, I think my self-conscious mind activates in these circumstances, whereby I think about how I might come across to the person I am meeting; I consider the first impression I’m making upon them. This might continue for the duration of the time spent with that person, and in subsequent meetings, depending on how I relate to them and the connection I form with them.

It tends to get more intense if I am meeting or talking to someone I really don’t want to mess up a connection with, particularly when that connection is something I personally see as incredibly special. This is often because these kinds of connections don’t come around often, and so you really have to make sure you treat them well; you have to make sure you nurture them, you allow them to develop, to deepen. But, trust me, it can sometimes be mentally draining to navigate that. Again, this is where the overthinking occurs. You might see or hear or read something and possibilities begin to race through your mind like cars in a drag race; They are hard to ignore, because the noise of each thought fills the expanse of your mind, each racing to the finish line, the forefront of your mind. The irritating thing is that oftentimes the thought that wins that race is the one containing the worst-case scenario. That thought is the one that becomes all-consuming. It’s the one you just cannot seem to shake. It takes a hold on your mind and grips you, giving you the very confronting idea that this possibility will transform into reality, and you will have to live it out not just in the worst parts of your imagination, but also in real life. That’s when your stomach drops, and the anxiety starts to come on. It is one of the worst feelings one can have.

When I find myself in such a circumstance, I do what I can to try to steer my mind away from that possessive thought. But this can be a difficult task. It is not easy to distract yourself from something that is so overwhelmingly, well, bad, particularly when it is running rampant in your mind, causing as much chaos as it can. Some distractions work better than others, but it depends entirely on the individual. As I mentioned before, you could listen to some music (even dance it out; it doesn’t have to be good dancing, but just working off the nervous/anxious/negative energy can be relieving), watch a television show (it might be an episode of a series you’re enjoying, maybe a few episodes) or movie (it could even be one that you’ve seen before, but that is comforting for you; the same applies to the television show), read a book (although this may be somewhat less helpful given it may be hard to focus on what you’re reading when those thoughts are swirling around in your mind), listen to an audiobook or podcast, do some exercise (again, a good workout can be a great way to shake off that negative energy), cook/bake something, or, if you’re religious like me, pray (this can be such a soothing and cathartic experience).

For me, faith has played a truly significant role in helping me through difficult situations, especially when I’m in a mental predicament like those mentioned above throughout this piece. Sometimes when I start overthinking things a lot, and I become consumed by the worst-case scenario thought, I spend time with God, praying, asking Him for guidance, asking Him for help. I ask Him to give me hope, to keep that spark, that flame, alive in my heart. I talk to God and tell Him how I’m feeling, I tell Him all I’m thinking. I tell Him all my greatest hopes and my deepest fears. Sometimes it is difficult to put those thoughts and feelings and hopes into words. But when it is, I think God can still see them, can still understand them. He knows what is in our hearts, even when we cannot find the words to express it. That’s one of the many amazing things about God and about faith. You have this divine, omnipresent Being that is with you no matter where you are, no matter what you are going through. You can talk to Him at any time, anywhere. He will always be there to listen. He will always be there to hear your deepest thoughts, your greatest desires, your tearful pleas, your cries for help, your prayers of gratitude. He is with us at our lowest lows and our highest highs. That is what makes faith so special. Because no matter what struggles you are going through, He will always walk beside you, He will always be there for you, to give you comfort, to give you peace.

Being self-conscious is a difficult challenge to overcome. Being in your own head about everything is a constant struggle, one which takes much subconscious self-restraint, patience, and practice to deal with. It is not something you can just shake off overnight. It takes time to figure out how to combat it, how to restrain it. I think we all struggle with such things to some degree, some of us more than others. Sometimes just talking about it helps us to get out of our own heads and gives us a valuable opportunity to process the thoughts that refuse to be quiet.

For those out there like myself, I know how difficult it can be to manage a self-conscious mind, to overthink so many things. But take comfort in knowing you are not alone, and that there are ways of dealing with it. Each of us are different, but with a listening ear, or indeed the power of faith, we can all get through the battles that take place in our own minds.

Uncovering Christianity: Exploring The Roots Of The West #9 – Kindness and Charity, Freely Given

One of the great notions of Western Civilization and Christianity is our penchant for kindness and charity. Often, we give up our own time, of our own accord, to help others in whatever way we can. It might be cooking a meal for a friend or family member who is going through a tough time, helping the elderly with regular tasks, volunteering to help those less fortunate than us, or spending time with someone who is struggling. (sometimes just having a listening ear can be all one needs to decompress, to get their thoughts and feelings out into the open, process them, understand them, and then move forward without that baggage weighing them down, demotivating them, and preventing them from doing things they want to do and living their lives the best they can). When we show kindness and charity towards others, it is important that we are doing so out of the goodness of our own hearts, not merely for the sake of doing so or because we are being forced to. That is how resentment is bred.

A key message given by Jesus Christ is written in John’s Gospel, where Jesus said to His disciples:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus demonstrates throughout his Earthly life his love not only for His disciples, but for everyone else as well. He heals people without a second thought; He listens to those who are struggling in their lives; He forgives those who others may deem unworthy of forgiveness; He helps those who have been cast out of society, deemed beyond assistance. It is, however, important to note that Jesus does this not because He is being forced to, but out of his own goodwill.

There is a common misconception in Western society that Jesus Christ was a socialist. Now I want to be clear, I do not intend for Uncovering Christianity to become overly political, but this is a point that must be addressed once and for all. Jesus was not a socialist. How do we know this? Because what He did, and how he told people to go about living, was not forced. It was completely voluntary. The distinguishing feature of socialism is force. If something is voluntary, it is not reminiscent of socialism.

In the New Testament, the place in the Bible where the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) reside, those four Books of the Bible that detail the life, death, resurrection and Ascension of Christ, there is not a word spoken by Jesus to call for the empowerment of politicians and bureaucrats to control every aspect of society. Jesus did not say that these people of power, a power He reminds them was given to them by God, should allocate resources, impose minimum wages, tell people how to run their own businesses, compel workers to join a union, or even raise taxes. In fact, when the Pharisees (the Jewish sect in power at the time of Jesus’ Earthly life, who we have discussed in more detail in previous editions of Uncovering Christianity), attempted to trick Jesus into the endorsement of tax evasion, He cleverly said the following:

“Then, give to Caesar that what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21)

Immediately after this, those sent by the Pharisees to entrap Jesus leave Him, astonished at His response to their baited question. Christ’s response demonstrates His quick ability to bestow wisdom upon those who He meets, and those who attempt to test Him. In saying what He does in the above verse, He allows others to decide what property truly belongs to the State, the rest belonging to God Himself.

There are two particular moments in Christ’s ministry often cited by those who claim Jesus was a socialist, Communist, Marxist, or whatever other absurdity they wish to lay claim to. They see these moments as times when Jesus rebuked the rich. These are clearly misinterpreted, which is unsurprising given the Bible is likely one of the most greatly misinterpreted books in existence. The first of these is the time when Jesus drove the money changers from the temple. This had absolutely nothing to do with money. Jesus was angry at these individuals because they were misusing God’s house, the temple. It also serves as a foreshadowing of the destruction of the temple, which Christ Himself would be destroyed and raised back up in three days (this was in reference not only to the physical temple, but His own Body, the temple of the Holy Spirit). The second is more commonly cited amongst those who are of certain political persuasions but appear to have little to no knowledge of the Biblical text other than verses they have cherry-picked and twisted to suit their own agendas. The verse in question reads as follows:

“Yes, believe me: it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:24)

Most who take this out of context do so as a means of attacking the wealthy, of rebuking capitalism or the free market. Again, this has nothing to do with political ideology, nor is it an example of Christ supporting socialism. What Jesus meant when He said this was that it is difficult for those who are wealthy to resist temptation and therefore it is increasingly difficult for them to attain entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Being rich may have its perks, but one must ensure they are responsible with such wealth. It is far easier to give into temptations, to become a slave to temptation itself. Jesus is thereby merely warning those who have such riches to tread carefully, to watch out for temptation when it rears its ugly head, and to be prepared, to have enough restraint, to shoot them down when they do, keeping in mind that this earthly life is only temporary, that how we spend our eternal life is of great importance.

To go further on this point, we may look to another story from Jesus’ time living amongst us on Earth:

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Master, tell my brother to share with me the property left by our father.” He replied, “My friend, who has appointed me as your judge or arbiter?” Then Jesus said to the people, “Be on your guard and avoid every kind of greed, for the quality of your life does not depend on the possessions you have, however great they may be.” (Luke 12:13-15)

Again, Christ tells us that our Earthly possessions are not what enrich our lives. They are not what make us who we are, they do not make our lives more valuable than others’. We must be self-aware and ensure we do not become enslaved by greed. What enriches our lives are not tangible assets, but the very parts of our lives that we cannot put a price on. These are the very entities that are core to our being. They are the intangible parts of life, including those such as love, happiness, spirituality, grace, kindness, courage, all the pieces that make up the complex puzzles that are our personalities, that are our intrinsic natures. To that we may add friendships, invaluable special connections and relationships. And, of course, our relationship with God. With these, we are able to live a more fulfilling life.

When we think about helping others, our minds typically go straight to the poor and the needy. People who attack Christianity like to use these people to make a point. They like to say that Christians should support socialism because it would mean the poor and the needy would be less poor and less needy and in a much better position in society. They say Jesus was a socialist because He helped the poor and the needy. Once again, they are twisting the Biblical text to suit their own agenda.

Yes, Jesus Christ did help the poor and the needy. He healed the sick. He encouraged charity, Christian charity. But it is again important to understand that Christian charity is voluntary, that it is heartfelt. It does not come out of a place of obligation, of impersonal compulsion, but of a love of neighbour and of the goodness of one’s own heart. When Jesus spoke of the poor, He did not say “We’re going to make you help whether you like it or not.” He said,

“At any time you can help the poor, for you always have them with you, but you will not have me forever.” (Mark 14:7)

And this message of helping the poor out of personal choice, out of Christian charity, is reinforced in Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians, where he wrote:

Let each one give what he has decided upon personally, and not reluctantly as if compelled, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

These two verses reinforce the nature of Christian charity. The first goes to how we always have the opportunity to help the poor, but it is up to us to do so because we want to. This links to the second in that God wants us to give of our own free will, of our own volition, of our own charitable thought. It is all well and good to give out of compulsion but doing so generally creates an air of resentment around carrying out an act of charity, or an act of kindness. This means your charity or kindness is not well-intentioned, it is not enshrined in goodwill. Ultimately, for an act of charity or kindness to be true to its intrinsic nature, it must be given freely, voluntarily, and wholeheartedly. For as Paul writes, God loves a cheerful giver.

One of the greatest examples of true charity is the Good Samaritan. In His teachings, Jesus spoke in parables to help the people understand the messages He was trying to get across to them. The parable of the Good Samaritan, taken from Luke’s Gospel, is a truly memorable story with a key message of kindness, charity, and love of neighbour that we can all live by. Particularly for those who are unfamiliar with the Biblical text and have the urge to learn more, here is the parable in full:

Jesus then said, “There was a man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him and went off leaving him half dead. It happened that a priest was going along that road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite saw the man and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, too, was going along that road, and when he came upon the man, he was moved with compassion. He went over to him and treated his wounds with oil and wine and wrapped them with bandages. Then he put him on his own animal and brought him to an inn where he took care of him.

The next day he had to set off, but he gave two denarii to the innkeeper and told him: “Take care of him and if you spend more, I will repay when I come back.”

Jesus then asked, “Which of these three, do you think, made himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The teacher of the Law answered, “The one who had mercy on him.” And Jesus said, “Go then and do the same.” (Luke 10:30-37)

In telling this parable, Jesus is highlighting the importance of having mercy on others and showing them charity, showing them kindness, out of the goodness of our own hearts. Although there were two men, the priest and the Levite, who saw the wounded man in a terrible state on the side of the road, they did not go up to him and spend time helping him, tending to his wounds, and assisting him in getting to safety. The Samaritan, however, put a hold on his journey to wherever he was travelling, went to the man, used his own time and resources to treat him and took him to safety. He went out of his way to do all this, even going so far as to pay for the man’s expenses at the inn, and did so purely out of compassion, out of true charity, out of the goodness of his own heart, out of love of one’s neighbour. Jesus Christ told this parable to teach us how to live well. We must follow in the stead of the Good Samaritan, treating others with mercy, with kindness, just as God does for us. The Good Samaritan did not just tell the man to wait for help from the government, or from somebody else. If he did, we may know him not as the “Good” Samaritan, but as the “Good-For-Nothing” Samaritan. Like him, we too should endeavour to help others in a compassionate and heartfelt manner.

The way we act towards others is not only an important part of the way we live, but also of our personalities and the very core of our being. If we force kindness, if we force charity towards others, we will only breed resentment, and that does not work in our favour. It creates a loathsome mentality, one of bitterness, hatred, contempt, all those tendrils of darkness that work to blacken our hearts and our souls. Similar occurrences come into being when we undertake these actions as a means of elevating ourselves to some higher status, or merely for the purpose of boasting about it. But if we act kindly and charitably of our own free will, of our own volition, with goodwill, drawing from the goodness of our own hearts, this will allow light to shine through, creating joy, hope, love and peace in our hearts and souls.

So, if you are looking for a way to brighten someone else’s life, as well as your own, do a random act of kindness. It can truly change a life, or even several. Kindness and charity emanate throughout society. It just takes one good-natured person to start a ripple.

This is the Ninth Edition of a Series entitled Uncovering Christianity: Exploring the Roots of the West. This series explores the values and ideas originating from Christianity, looking back at Biblical times, and relating them to the modern world. There are central themes to each piece in this series, with key messages throughout to guide you in your own life. The series also looks at some of the threats to the roots of Western Civilization and discusses what can be done to placate them and protect the foundation of society. Keep an eye out for new series pieces each week.

Uncovering Christianity: Exploring The Roots Of The West #5 – The Anonymous Christian

Christianity is often viewed as solely religious doctrine. But it is more than just a religion. It is a faith. It is a set of moral principles that human beings abide by in order to live a good and decent life. But you do not have to be Christian to live by these principles. There are many individuals out there in the world who do not label themselves as Christian, nor religious, yet hold the same values that are at the very core of Christianity. In the last few months of 2020, I began thinking about these certain individuals, contemplating how, despite not being religious, they still acted like Christians. This was brought on by having a conversation with someone who was not religious but still held the same values attributed to Christianity. I had often thought about it since, and then, at the Good Friday service at my parish, the parish priest discussed what he called the “anonymous Christian” in his homily, and I knew this was something that had to be discussed further.

The anonymous Christian is someone who does not necessarily put a label on what they are, but their values align with those of the Christian faith. They may not be particularly fond of religion. Or, like the aforementioned individual who I conversed with on this matter late last year, they may have an urge, a desire to learn more about Christianity, about the faith. I hope that through my writing, through this series, and in a personal capacity I can provide guidance to those who have this urge to find out more. The Bible is more than just a religious text; it is a way of life. It contains principles, ideas, stories, and lessons that people may find are linked to what they already believe. Christianity is a universal truth. The effect it can have on people when they encounter it, when they are able to see how it links to their own lives and their own beliefs, is difficult to explain. It is one of those things that is really just beyond words.

Sometimes anonymous Christians are more Christian than us Christians. As a practicing Catholic, I do my best to uphold the values of my faith: caring for others, showing kindness, helping those in need, and even teaching kids about the faith and the values we hold as Christians. But I admit even I fall short at times. I stumble, I do or say something that does not align with my values, and I often feel a deep sense of regret, shame, or self-awareness  afterwards. That is likely true for every one of us, given none of us are perfect. Sometimes the anonymous Christian espouses our values and puts them into action better than we do. While they are out there living their values and being rewarded for doing so in the joy they experience (much like the women who went to the tomb where Jesus had been laid on the third day to find it empty), we hide away like the disciples did after Jesus’ death on the Cross. Yes, in our hearts we may be good people, but we fail to live out our Christian values and use them to help others, to give back to the world, to give back to God in thanks for the gifts he has given us.

Anonymous Christians may at some point decide that they wish to label themselves Christians and begin to deepen their faith. They might start to read the Bible more, to try to deepen their understanding of Christianity, of the belief system, and of the faith itself. They might decide to consult someone who is knowledgeable in the faith, maybe a practicing Christian. Upon reading the Bible, or looking deeper into the faith, they might begin to form questions that they seek answers to, again possibly coming to those of the faith to ask and obtain those valuable answers. They might have an urge to attend church services, to be a part of a congregation of like-minded individuals and meet others who are on the faith journey. After some time, they might even decide to become a Christian or a Catholic and be baptized and/or confirmed as such. It is quite an incredible feeling being a part of a welcoming and loving community.

Anonymous Christians who want to learn more about the faith and immerse themselves more deeply in it should know that they would not be alone in doing so. Practicing Christians and Catholics are constantly doing the same. We learn more all the time. Take it from me. I was baptized Catholic and have attended mass practically every week since I was a baby. As I grew up, I learnt more about my faith and the values contained within it by discussing it with fellow Christians, by attending scripture classes throughout primary school and scripture seminars throughout high school (I was indeed lucky to attend a public high school that offered the opportunity to connect with the faith, something that is becoming increasingly rare nowadays), by attending mass each weekend, by reading the Bible and asking questions, and by watching others live out Christian values in their own lives. Over the years, I have come to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the Christian faith and have learnt how to live a good and decent life maintaining the values that I hold dear.

Even now as an adult I am still learning. I have come full circle in terms of scripture classes, going from taking them as a student to teaching them as an adult, so that other kids will have the same opportunities that I did to grow and understand the faith and shape their lives using Christian values. I may teach them, but I often find myself learning things from them that I never thought of before. I also find myself still having epiphanies of sorts at mass when listening to the homily (that is, a reflection on the week’s readings and gospel given by the priest) or even the readings themselves, suddenly realizing something, connecting the dots somewhere that I had not before. For example, at the Easter Vigil mass this year, we heard the story of Abraham and his son Isaac, who he was going to sacrifice for God. But God, seeing Abraham’s loyalty and fear of the Lord, spares Isaac and provides the sacrifice Himself. This Old Testament reading reflects the New Testament story of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, who was sacrificed and died to save us from sin. There is a really beautiful Bible verse, John 3:16, that reads:

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Just like Abraham was willing to sacrifice his one and only son, God the Father was willing to do the same, and did so, out of love for His people, even though the people had strayed from Him. Despite having heard these Bible stories many times before, I did not connect the two until just this year, and it amazed me when I suddenly realised the parallels. The incredible thing about the Bible is that the Old Testament foreshadows the New. God’s test of Abraham, ultimately ending in His provision of a ram to substitute for Isaac as the sacrifice, foreshadows the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, whereby God provides His only Son as a substitute for us. There is the story of David, who was rejected by his parents as a child, and later by his son who rejected him as King and attempted to take over the kingdom himself. The rejection David and his ultimate ascension as King foreshadows the rejection of Jesus by the Jews and his ascension to become their

spiritual King. And there is the story of Moses, who led the Israelites, God’s people, out of captivity in Egypt by the grace of God, just as Jesus leads all who believe in Him out of the slavery of sin and death. There was the Great Flood, which God used to wash away the wickedness he saw on Earth in the time of Noah. Just as the Great Flood washed away the sins of old, baptism washes away original sin from each of those who receive it, be it those in the New Testament, or even us today.

One can even go as far back as Creation itself, when God created the first human beings in existence, Adam and Eve. Upon creating the two, God gave them the breath of life, a truly magnificent gift. This first God-given gift foreshadowed the gift He would give the disciples in the New Testament at Pentecost, just after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven. This gift sent from above, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God Himself, was bestowed upon each of them, granting them seven spiritual gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord (what is now more commonly known as wonder and awe). Each of these seven gifts helps their bearer to live a fruitful and meaningful life, doing good on this Earth just as Jesus did throughout His earthly life.

Wisdom allows us to recognize truth, to understand things from the point of view of God Himself. Understanding allows us to grasp the world around us and the points of view of others, as well as the truths of the Christian faith. Counsel helps us to discern right from wrong and make a good judgement as to how best to act. That is why it is also known as Right Judgement. Fortitude, or more simply courage, helps us to stand up for good and defend our world against evil. Knowledge allows us to understand our meaning, our purpose in the world, and to live up to it. Piety gives us a willingness to worship God and to serve Him and others out of love and the goodness of our own hearts. Finally, fear of the Lord, or wonder and awe, is the precursor to wisdom. It allows us to understand and comprehend the greatness, the awesomeness of the Lord and to understand who we are as human beings and why we are here in relation to God Himself. To put it another way, everything we are is a resultant of the wonder, grace, love, and perfection of God.

These gifts of the Holy Spirit are reflected in the way Christians live their lives. But the Anonymous Christian can also espouse similar ways of living, even to a greater degree than some Christians. They can also be witnesses to the gifts, and may be so inspired, so awestruck that they discover an urge, a desire in their heart, to learn more about the faith and come to allow God to enter their life and their heart, to subsequently watch as He works in His mysterious ways to transform their life, and to deepen their connection with Him.

The Christian faith is built upon a foundation of moral principles and values that many of us in the wider society likely share. You do not have to be a Christian to live by these principles and hold these values dear. These are values that make society a better place, that make the world a better place. They help us to live meaningful and purposeful lives, ones in which the potential of achieving fulfillment increases significantly. If more people live their lives according to these values, the world will be the better for it.

So, to all the Anonymous Christians out there, I want you to know that we see you, we see the good that you are doing, the good lives that you lead, and the positive energy you are putting out into the world. Even though you share the Christian values and principles, you may not wish to put a label on yourself just yet, and that is perfectly fine. But if you have an urge to learn more, to discover the faith and all it holds, then I would highly recommend you do so. It will likely be one of the best decisions you ever make and will surely be worthwhile. If you are seeking a stepping stone per se into the world of Christianity and the Bible, I highly recommend watching Jordan Peterson’s Biblical Series. It is quite well done and is a great starting place for those who have that urge to find out more. Peterson himself is a good example of an Anonymous Christian, given he lives by Christian values and principles. In his case, I think after all the lectures he has given of a Biblical nature, all that he has written on Christianity and the Bible, and all that he has been subject to in his own life, particularly over the last few years, he has come to a point where he is wrestling with God, and, at least from my perspective, is coming to a point where he is willing to accept God into his life. It is something that is clearly an emotional and incredibly reflective journey for him, as it is for many who come to discover God’s presence in their lives.

Peterson has helped many individuals who were wondering or who had no idea at all about the faith to come to begin to understand it and embark upon a journey of further investigation and understanding. Indeed, I would say it is almost certain his work has brought more people into the faith, that it has brought more people to God. And that is truly an incredible thing for any one man to accomplish. It shows just how much of an impact Anonymous Christians can have on those around them, and on the world itself. As a Catholic, I aspire to be able to do the same. But Anonymous Christians should know that they can have an incredible impact on the lives of others, and that should inspire them to continue forth on their path, and to embark upon their own journey of discovery and understanding of the faith. I hope that this series might serve to help you on that journey.

This is the Fifth Edition of a Series entitled Uncovering Christianity: Exploring the Roots of the West. This series explores the values and ideas originating from Christianity, looking back at Biblical times, and relating them to the modern world. There are central themes to each piece in this series, with key messages throughout to guide you in your own life. The series also looks at some of the threats to the roots of Western Civilization and discusses what can be done to placate them and protect the foundation of society. Keep an eye out for new series pieces each week.