Early 30s; bearded; Birkenstock-y shoes; he crashed a lot on friends’ couches after leaving behind a stable job to pursue his passion (so to speak). If you guessed 'millennial,' then you’re correct. But chances are you’re thinking of the wrong millennium.
Jesus Christ’s time was one of power shifts and bubbling tensions not entirely unlike our own. But Christ defined his era — not the other way around.
Pasting the labels of today’s generational parlance onto him is cute, but much more important than identifying the ways Jesus looks like a modern-day millennial is identifying the ways that millennials — and everybody else — can look a little more like Jesus.
And so I offer these First Millennium Lessons for Third Millennium Millennials (and Non-Millennials), inspired by the World’s First (First Millennium) Millennial:
1. Be open
Jesus didn’t like barriers. In fact, he made a practice of knocking them down. He conversed with the Samaritan and the Sadducee on common ground. He saw the adulterer and the publican and the leper as he saw his own apostles — each one a legitimate heir to divinity, with inherent value and immense responsibility.
Christ himself was an unlanded Nazarene, a Jew living in a Roman world — a marginal member of a marginal group. But instead of trying to insulate himself from real or perceived vulnerabilities, he sought out those whom others had shunned and started dialogues with those who had shunned him.
2. Think critically
Christ was educated. He had a deep knowledge and respect of scripture and the history contained therein. But he refused to regard the law (or its standing interpretation) as unyielding nicks in cold stone tablets. He allowed it to evolve — indeed, much to the chagrin of many important people, he saw himself as the catalyst of that evolution.
Christ toyed with the way things ought to be, elevating a good heart above a high rank; he butted heads with the entrenched authorities of his day, naming their hypocrisy and probing their biases. He obeyed his principles perfectly and broke a couple of rules doing so. By upending tradition, Jesus revealed the truth hidden underneath it.
3. Love people
Jesus disagreed. He taught, he chastened, he rebuked. But he never let those things get in the way of love. Christ acknowledged difference but forsook division. When he had opportunity to judge, he chose to heal instead.
He sacrificed for both his friends and for those who regarded themselves his enemies. Why? Because he loved them. He loved them as dearly as one can love a sister or a brother. Imagine if more of us tried doing that today.
Navigating today’s choppy discourse, we’d all be well served by taking another look at Christ’s approach to a changing world. Anchored by principle, Jesus’ confidence allowed him to engage views that weren’t his own. His charity let him see beyond the view to the human being holding it.
Each of us, upstart and old guard alike, will come up short of the example Jesus Christ left. But when we offer to share our loaves across social and political divides — as we sit together, hear another person’s thoughts, and share our own in turn — we’ll do much more than broaden perspectives. By living the way he did, we’ll come to know Christ.