In history, there have been many leaders who have had a significant impact on the lives of their followers. These leaders have left a good legacy, which lives on many years after their death. These great historic leaders are drawn from different spheres of life such as political and religious, among other spheres.
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Among the different world religions that exist, there are key people that are recognized as founders of these religions. Among the Christians, Jesus Christ is recognized as the founder of the Christian faith. Many scholars and other individuals have criticized His teachings, while others have commended them and sought to live by them. This means that their lives have been shaped by the teachings of Jesus.
Since there are different views on what people think of Jesus, this essay shall focus on Jesus as the son of God and the savior of mankind. Before undertaking this course, I believed that Jesus is the son of God and the savior of mankind, a belief that was further validated while I undertook this course.
Ways in which note-worthy religious leaders have understood Jesus from their unique cultural and historical contexts
Note-worthy religious leaders have had their in put in the controversial debate that has been going on for ages, about what people think concerning Jesus Christ. Some have advanced their propositions in support of the view that Jesus is the son of God and the savior of mankind, while others have refuted this claim.
One of the note-worthy religious leader, who was a believer in Jesus as the son of God is Martin Luther King, Jr. the religious beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and how they shaped their future lives are documented by Cone, in his book, Martin & Malcom & America: A Dream or A Nightmare. Luther is presented as a Christian, whose religious background has changed his thinking and the ideologies he advances in life.
Cone (15) notes that Jesus’ teachings about loving ones enemies and praying for them was one of the fundamental beliefs held by Luther. This is because, Luther sought to liberate his fellow African Americans from oppression by their white masters, but he sought to do so not violently but through loving them. The ‘American dream’ that Luther came up with, gave the blacks hope that one day, they would be liberated from all manner of oppression, just like the Hebrews in the Bible.
Luther emphasized that the only way that one could win over the affection of their enemies is through loving them. It was easy for Luther to encourage his fellow black Americans that God was going to deliver them from the oppression by the whites because of his strong faith in Jesus Christ.
He appealed to them to put their faith in Jesus Christ and He would end their misery. Luther therefore sought to live by the example of Jesus Christ, who showed love to His enemies at a time when He could have so easily justified why it was okay to hate them.
Luther urged all people to love their enemies, as Jesus taught during the Sermon on the Mount as recorded by the New International Version (683-685). In Mathew 5: 43-48, Jesus Christ particularly addresses the issue of loving ones enemies. This is a concept that Jesus does not only preach in words but sets an example for His followers by showing them how to love their enemies in deed.
Gandhi, a note-worthy Hindu religious leader, has also had his contribution on the never ending debate about what people think about Jesus Christ. Speaking about what he thought about Jesus, Gandhi simply said that Jesus was one of the great teachers who ever lived. Although he does not embrace the notion of Jesus as the son of God and the savior of mankind, Gandhi acknowledges that the teachings and life of Jesus are worth emulating.
He confesses that the reason he does not out rightly believe in the deity of Jesus is because he lacks a profound understanding of the teachings of Jesus. He also confesses not to have knowledge or interpretation of the immense spiritual strength that Jesus had and has never been experienced by human beings prior to his coming.
He admits that Jesus was a virtues man, who taught people to live by virtues such as love. He particularly thinks that the notion of loving ones enemy, as Jesus taught during the Sermon on the Mount, is very relevant to every human being. Gandhi admits that even though he does not out rightly believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the teachings of Jesus have a great impact in His life.
Orobator (10) approaches the concept of theology from an African perspective. He examines the teachings of Jesus Christ and relates them, to his African understanding of God. For example, he uses a dialogue between a missionary and an African man about God to show the two divergent views concerning God that exist between those who believe in the God of the Bible and the Africans who believe in another god.
The dialogue is quoted from Chinas Achebe’s ‘things fall apart’. To bring out his views about theology and what he thinks about Jesus, Orobator uses three different incidents in the life of Jesus, which help to bring out the meaning of theology. He eventually concludes that theology involves sensible conversations geared at understanding the nature of God.
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Assessment, Critique and Interpretation of Jesus and His Message
Jesus and his message have been very influential in the lives of many people. This includes those who believe in Him as the Son of God, like Martin Luther King, as well as others like Gandhi, who do not seem to have enough conviction that Jesus is the son of God. The most notable message of Jesus, that has attracted a lot of criticism as well as praise, is the Sermon on the Mount. However, there are other messages that Jesus gave that were also considered to be oppressive by some, while others considered them to be liberating.
For example, Orobator discusses the parable of the rich young man, who went to Jesus to enquire what he was supposed to do in order to enter into the kingdom of God. Jesus tells him that he should go sell his possessions and give to the poor. This response is seen by some people as oppressive, while others see it as liberating. However, according to Jesus, this is a liberating act that rids one of all entanglements that may hinder one from entering into the kingdom of God.
The Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus calls upon people to love their enemies, is also seen as liberating and oppressive at the same time b y different people. There are those who think that it is not fair to tell one to love a person who is mistreating them. However, the truth about how liberating it is to love one’s enemies has been proved by Jesus Himself, during His life on earth as well as by other great religious leaders like Martin Luther King Jr.
Ways in which they integrate a concern for the poor, nonviolence and justice into their lives
The sermons and teachings of Jesus have proved to integrate a concern for the poor, nonviolence and justice. The call to love one’s enemies instead of engaging in violent actions demanding for one’s rights are an example of how Jesus promoted peaceful coexistence, while shunning any violence.
An example o how this can be practical can be seen through the life of martin Luther King Jr. he urged his fellow blacks not to engage in violent acts while demanding for their rights and instead put their faith in Jesus as the son of God who would redeem them from their misery. He continued to emphasize on the American dream, which he had strong faith would be realized.
Again, during His life on earth, Jesus was compassionate on the poor. He treated everyone equally and never showed favoritism. When Orobator (20), records the story of the rich young man, he says that he is told by Jesus to go and sell his possessions then give them to the poor. This showed that Jesus was concerned about the poor.
Although there have been many religious leaders who have advanced different theories and philosophies, Jesus stands out as a unique leader of the Christian faith. This is mainly because he is the Son of God who was sent to redeem mankind from their sins. The life and teachings of Jesus Christ have proved to be unique from the rest of the religious leaders who have ever lived.
His teachings have proved to be practical and liberating to those who obey them. They are not oppressive as some people have tried to argue. Moreover, through his life and teachings, it is evident that He is the Son of God who was sent to save mankind.
Cone, James. Martin and Malcolm and America: A Dream or a Nightmare. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.
Gandhi, Mohandas. Mohandas Gandhi: Essential, John Dear, ed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002.
New International Version. The Bible: Sermon on the Mount, Mathew 5-7. Colorado: Biblica, Inc., 1984.
Orobator, Agbonkhianmeghe. Theology Brewed in an African Pot. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2008.