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A role model for compassion and forgiveness: What we can all learn from Jesus.

It’s Easter weekend and I am struggling to find friends who haven’t left the city.

“Byron for the weekend, sorry darling.”

“We’re driving up to the Central Coast!”

“I’m going to Thredbo… for the hiking trails.”

Essentially, as a young 20-something, my social circles treat the Easter break as a chance to take leave without applying for it and get away from nine to five life.

My partner, who currently lives overseas, laughed when I told her of my no-friends-but-Netflix Easter and said in absolute sincerity, “Why don’t you go to Church?”.

There are a lot of reasons I could have given but not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, I said that between the pews and my atheism, I’d probably feel uncomfortable.

But that’s not to say I don’t need Jesus – in fact, I think we all do.

why we need Jesus
Beautiful but bleak to sit on for more than an hour. Source: Unlicensed image.

Jesus first entered my life at the tender age of four, when my kindergarten class was divided into Christian, Catholic, Jewish and ‘non-religious’ sections. Being a baptised babe, I sat in front of an elderly nun and listened as she told us all about this wonderful man.

When he wasn’t walking on it, he could turn water into wine, heal the blind, divide bread in ways I tried to replicate later (failed) and most importantly, he could be a really good guy even when others weren’t.

When I got home, I excitedly told my parents about this Jesus fellow and they looked at me with gentle amusement – the same look I received when I spoke about Santa.

I didn’t get it.  I do now.

Rejecting faith has become a badge of the intellectual – sometimes it’s a big badge, a loud badge, an angry badge – sometimes it’s a small badge, the kind that only peeks out from your collar when it’s asked.

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There are many reasons that compel people into believing that God doesn’t exist – science, a lack of personal connection or even a desire to reject religion on the basis of how it can manifest within others.

But there’s a lot we can learn from Jesus.

what would Jesus do
The image of Jesus placing his hands on a leper. Source: Unlicensed image.

Jesus was a figure who even to my four-year-old brain, could be understood as something good.

He believed in the goodness of others and looked beyond addiction, affliction and wrongdoing in order to forgive.

He was also a selfless man, which to a four-year-old who didn’t just want things but wanted them now, was an unusual concept.

Jesus gave me a model that wasn’t my parents to which I could model my behaviour. He also gave me a lot of stories involving things I liked like: animals, far-away places with sand and sandals.

Sure, one could argue these ideas could be taught without the religious backing, but if we were to separate these principles of: goodness, selflessness and forgiveness from the figure of a man… would they be as effective?

If you consider that we are almost engineered to learn from others – our parents, our teachers and those around us – you can see how Jesus needed that human element in order to teach through example.

This is a concept that has been wholly embraced by the Christian movement.

The “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelets that adorn young faith holders both reminds them of these principles and of their connection with God.

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WWJD-bracelet cropped
A simple design with a powerful message. Source: Unlicensed image.

But there are so many times where such a reminder would help even the staunchest non-believer.

How many situations are we given in this life that take us by surprise and give us only a second to consider before we act?

For some, these moments are long pauses where they are able to reflect and react in a way that addresses the issue in a constructive manner.

For others, they escalate into situations where a great deal is lost.

The idea of ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ provides both kinds of people with a moral scaffold they can place over the situation in order to find an answer.

It may not be the best answer but there are certainly more situations that can be resolved with selflessness and forgiveness than where they can’t.

If we were to separate religion from Jesus – disassociate him from God and consider him just an image of the perfect role model – would he not stand for something we could all believe in?

I didn’t understand the complex architecture that stood behind him then, and I have not undertaken the necessary studies to even hint that I do now, but there is more to the man than Christianity.

Perhaps we could all road test this question over the Easter break and when your child stomps cream eggs into the carpet or when your partner puts salt instead of sugar into the hot cross buns, we can stop and ask ourselves: What would Jesus do?

If your Easter weekend is being sweetened by chocolate, just remember that to your dog, those eggs could be deadly. 

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