I've resisted doing this for some time.
I've resisted penning an article of this nature because I know this website is chock-full of these types. In just this moment I googled "jesus odyssey online" and was confronted with everything from a Christian perspective on mental illness to yet another reminder of how we should keep the "Christ" in "Christmas."
Plain to say, people feel pretty outspoken about their religion on Odyssey.
And it's not just Christianity. Quick searches also presented me with myriad options in terms of content for Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. I anticipate that if I were to dig deeper into each religious niche, I'd unearth ever more works.
So, if what I'm writing isn't anything original, why am I doing it?
Well, truth be told I've been party to more debates about originality than I care to count in the most recent past. No, if it's not for reasons of originality it is for another.
It is for myself.
See, certain recent conversations with friends have made me think in nuanced ways about the role that religion plays in the everyday, and as a practicing (not perfect) Christian, the ways that I myself play into that nuance.
For me, Christianity is nuance of that very personal and personable nature. For me, my Christian faith is an act of love.
In times of hate, I think it is quite easy to fumble away that act of love. For imperfect persons in an imperfect world it is easy to forget that calling of the Christ: "We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us."
While it might be easy to examine stills of angry Westboro Baptist Church picketers or sexually abusive Catholic cardinals and conclude that the whole great wide Christian tradition is indelibly poisoned, it is much more difficult to recall the work of feeding the hungry or housing the homeless.
Such was my upbringing in the Christian tradition.
Raised in a variety of Christian faith communities, I was lucky enough to see the way that many different denominations act out Jesus' call to love. From handing out that aforementioned bowl of soup to gathering together new school supplies to raising funds for a herd of cows for a partner community in El Salvador, my faith has never inhabited that same dark realm as Westboro or the horrific portions of the Vatican.
My faith has always represented an unbridled love for our shared humanity and this fragile world we all call home.
Though it's overplayed, overwrought, overstuffed, and over-everything else, the classic Bible verse that speaks authoritatively on love is here: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
If I might be so bold as to expose my biblical laymanship, I want to offer a slight course correction to the Corinthians: true love is patient and kind.
As imperfect persons it is difficult for us to find the truth in love. The truth that we're all one another has on this planet. That we are incredibly diverse animals even in our incredible sameness. That love is love is love is love and the truth of that amongst people is not something the body politic can quash.
At the same time, I don't begrudge the difficulty of the situation. Love is a nuanced, complex emotion. It's why we build monuments and apps to it and spend virtually our whole lives chasing it.
Hate, on the other hand, is easy. Much easier because it closes its eyes and pulls the trigger. Love makes you open up again and wonder why you're holding the gun in the first place.
We spend our whole lives chasing true love, if we ever find it at all. Ultimately, the sincerity of the emotion is truly the one thing that money or time or any other asset cannot purchase. And ironically, it is also the one thing that we can freely give.
To me, that has always been the Jesus story. A man, frightened by the gravity of his own time and situation, perfect in ways that no one else could be, offered a loving sacrifice. He loved and he died and hoped we might do the same. That we might not exchange harsh words over dead bodies or place those bodies there in the first place. That we might instead quiet for a moment and lay ourselves down and embrace.
My Christian faith is a constant conversation, and it can hardly be perfectly encapsulated in 800 words of obscure Internet blog, but I guess what I'm trying to say is this: it is difficult to give love in pure, true, and unbridled form, but if I'm to live as Jesus did, I must make that my creed.