The first chapter of John talks about the light of Christ that lights every man who comes into the world. It’s the only gospel that talks about it. I choose to interpret this as a conscience. Everyone in the world has a conscience. It allows us to be empathetic with others.
This may stem from one of the amazing things about our brain that allows us to project ourselves into the lives of others. This empathy we experience can give us a strong feeling of right and wrong. We wouldn’t want someone to hit us, so we don’t hit others.
But others who have been wronged so much in their life may have this feeling distorted. When so many people wrong you you may find that wronging others is the law of the jungle. Then you follow that code and bad things happen.
Other people may have bad things happen to them and come out with a different perspective. With Jesus of Nazareth it’s hard to imagine many things went right for him as a child. Roman rule was repressive. His father Joseph being a carpenter can also be translated that he was a day laborer helping build the cities for Herod Antipas. It’s most likely he was poor, witnessed oppression, and was a man well acquainted with sorrow.
But where normal people go on with their lives and live with injustice some people refuse to accept a world where so much wrong can be done. These are the people that try to make a difference. Most of them will never be known to us in history but a few of them, like Gandhi, MLK, and Jesus do become known.
In our day a big injustice is the wealth gap between rich and poor. Most of us hate poverty and want to help the poor. But how far are we willing to go? Do you feel so strongly about righting the wrongs of society that you will give up everything else to make it right?
What I’m arguing is that some people feel so strong about righting wrongs they don’t care what people think about them. Most of us don’t have the spiritual strength to follow our conscience to break the norms. That is why people like Jesus and Mother Theresa are radicals to us. Most of us accept that there is homelessness and hand out money here or there but we are not bothered by it enough to let it consume our own lives to the point of disrupt it to turn it to some higher cause.
I would point out that people like Jesus couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t speak out about the corruption he saw all around him with the temple cult, the people who sucked up to the Romans, and the Hypocrisy all around him. It’s not that he did it cause it was a good thing to do. He did it because he had to. His level of Jiminy Cricket was too loud and pushed all other concerns aside.
To be a follower of Jesus meant a radical life back then. It in no way resembles most christian followers today. I myself come up way short of it. But perhaps recognizing where you are is the first step on the path.