Founders & Exemplars
The life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth have all provided Christians with the template upon which they may base their own lives. In many respects, throughout the last 2000 years, Christians have justified their actions by suggesting that some experience of ‘the risen Christ’ has awoken in them a desire to follow Jesus’ example and attempt to make the world more like the Kingdom of God. On a local level there are always Christians – clergy, church wardens and devoted practitioners of the faith, who follow this principle. However, there are other Christians who have made a significant impact in modern times by their unswerving allegiance to their beliefs and are regarded as ‘saintly’ in some way. Martin Luther King Jr., Fr. Kolbe, Rosa Parks, Blessed Mother Teresa and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are all examples, having overcome the worst tendencies in human nature. The embracement of the poor, rejection of inequality and acceptance of the value of overcoming hatred, are examples of qualities found in these ‘modern saints’.
Stories associated with great Christian leaders inevitably reflect the self-sacrifice that these Christians are willing to endure. Whether it is working in the shadow of fear and continual threat of death as with Martin Luther King Jr., or placing the sick and lonely at the centre of her life, as with Blessed Mother Teresa, it is the commitment to the Christian ideal of love that is the motivating principle for these Christians.
For Christians, Jesus’ teaching provided the ideal example for living. Jesus taught by the Golden Rule, ‘In everything do to others as you would have them do to you’ (Matthew 7:12a). Simply, this places each person in the world on the same level, and the great Christian saints have sought to use this ethical principle for themselves and applied it accordingly.
Equality of people of all races, creeds and kinds, loving kindness in difficult situations, compassion in the face of anger, patience and a belief in a loving God who cares for his world, are all values which reflect the morality many Christians feel they should apply to the world today. It is from individual Christians who uphold these values that Christians take their lead.
Many Christians aspire to the commitment the great Christian leaders have shown. Christians acknowledge that the world is imperfect and that contemporary society is a reflection of this imperfection. William Wilberforce’s work for the abolition of the slave trade is a good example of a Christian recognising that slavery should have no place in the Kingdom. Similarly, today’s economic and social migrants along with political refugees need to be recipients of Christian concern. Reflecting on the lives of those Christians in past times helps Christians in today’s world enrich the work with which they are concerned. By so doing, Christians believe that society can become a more just and equable place in which to live