Lessons outside the classroom
Unexpectedly, I learnt a bit more about the character of Jesus on two recent occasions at university. To clarify, I’m not at a bible college or studying theology.
I feel like my eyes have been opened more to the compassion that Jesus shows others and, in turn, what we as Christ followers should show others, and unexpectedly enough, by people who don’t go to church.
I am part of a non-profit community organisation run by students at my law school. As the executive team, we recently discussed a new organisation that we could partner with and provide some legal assistance to.
Listening to the conversations around the table, and reflecting later on them during my bus ride home, I was really transformed by the ways that my fellow law students were walking and talking like Jesus. They had such a passion to use their legal skills to help persecuted and oppressed people.
I’m not sure if you know any lawyers or law students, but there can be a negative reputation that surrounds legal professionals, essentially that they rip you off and work only for their own gain. Personally, I’ve been struggling with how I want to practice as a lawyer. I don’t feel comfortable cutting large business deals or defeating a less powerful but wronged and justified party.
So as you can imagine, I was so encouraged to see the way that with our growing legal skills we can be selfless and help others. It encouraged me that I don’t really need to worry about where my career might go.
The privilege I have had in receiving an education and training as a lawyer can actually provide a way for me to be like Jesus for other people.
There are many stories in the bible where Jesus steps in, show compassion for others and acts wholly and completely selflessly so that these oppressed, marginalised and deprived people can have an enhanced life.
Many of my fellow students don’t go to church like I do, but they sure do show the compassion and selflessness that Jesus show others in what is the greatest example of fighting for social justice.
Politics, law and Jesus
The second occasion in which I learnt more about Jesus was in a lecture for a course called Anti-Corruption and Democracy, a law paper that focuses on political systems.
I’m starting to recognise that the actions and behaviour of Jesus are kind of reflected in many activities in our democratic systems. Of course, Jesus and his message transcends organised political and social systems.
The content of the lecture focused on social collective action for change. When we see people first undertaking action for change, the vast majority of us will probably immediately reject it.
These people are going against the status quo, and as part of human nature, we don’t want to follow. We think of these people as the other, and we don’t identify with them.
But if we want to see any real change in our world, and I think it’s fair to say that we can all see many areas of need for change in the society and communities we move in, then we need to work together.
Humans can’t really create change individually; we need collective action. This requires us to get over ourselves, to set aside our own self-interest, to step back from an ego-centric existence, and move beyond what we identify with.
Identity in Jesus
Of course, as Christians we know that our identity is in Christ - at least, that is what we say in theory. But you see, these ideas that we hold about our faith and what it means often don’t translate into deep-seated beliefs that drive action. We actually need to behave like Jesus to show that we believe like Jesus.
And naturally, we can’t learn everything at once. The more we live and open ourselves to learning and reflecting, the more we can unpack beliefs that were ingrained in us and ultimately hold us back from being transformed by Jesus.
So by human nature, we will have aspects of our identity that get in the way of being compassionate like Jesus and joining in the good fight for others. We need to move on from the [false] identities we hold that lead us to put ourselves in one group, and others in another.
While doing this may cost us, it’s really what Jesus calls us to do. Jesus calls us to be compassionate, to remove ourselves from the centre of our lives and replace it with him, with love, with bringing others out of oppression, with caring for one person no less than another.
These are ideas that I’ve encountered at church, reading my bible, listening to people’s stories. But they truly came alive and substantiated in the world I experience very recently on my university campus. And I am grateful for the lessons.
Rebecca Hoverd studies law and geography at The University of Auckland and loves writing as a way to communicate with God and to unpack her thoughts. She loves coffee, conversations, and would love to hear your feedback at email@example.com.