Rabbi Zalman Tiechtel, Chabad Jewish Center, 1203 W. 19th St.:
I believe that all men are created in the image of God. This means that every single person, regardless of their level of wealth and intellect, has intrinsic worth.
That intrinsic worth is not modified by the creed the person believes in, the color of the skin or the style of clothes that they wear. This intrinsic worth is called the soul, the very essence of our being.
Let’s call it a diamond. Within our body, we have a soul, shimmering like a diamond in the deepest part of our identity. Our body temporarily encases our soul for the duration of our lifetime on this earth. The body can either be a hindrance to the soul by concealing its light, or a vehicle for the soul's light to be fully expressed.
If we live a life of hedonism and selfishness, if our body and its cravings become the focus of our existence, then the diamond that is our soul gets buried beneath the body's layers of physicality, and its light is prevented from shining.
But if we live a life of purpose — a life in which the desires of our soul overpower the demands of our body and we fill each day with acts of goodness and holiness — then the light of the soul is not dimmed by the body. On the contrary, the body becomes the vehicle for the soul’s light to shine.
By refining our character, bringing light to those around us, and maintaining the purity and innocence of our soul, we become a living, breathing diamond, a divine work of art.
Whether or not we see it, our every act of goodness and holiness makes an eternal impression. Even the most trivial act of goodness impacts the world for the better, and the positive energy we create through our good deeds resonates throughout the world for eternity.
Even if we have been neglecting our soul, it can always be polished and returned to its original shine. For a diamond may become covered in layers of muck, but beneath it all the diamond always retains its luster. As long as we are alive, we have the power to change, to uncover our soul’s power and let it shine.
— Send e-mail to Zalman Tiechtel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Rev. Andrew Mitchell, pastor, Stull United Methodist Church, 251 N. 1600 Road, Lecompton:
I don’t have much faith in people. At least that’s what the psychologist told me as I entered ministry — “You’re rather suspicious of people,” she said. (Apparently, to an extent, so is my denomination — all aspiring clergy have to pass a psychological evaluation to practice within the United Methodist Church). Her statement was a shock because I thought I possessed a “Pollyanna” optimism when it came to judging people’s motives.
Being cynical just might be a human tendency. From a general Christian perspective, Scripture shows that God puts more faith in people than people do. Three important New Testament examples:
l An old man and teen mother were tasked with raising a fragile infant born in straw poverty in such a way that he would grow to accept his identity as God’s very own.
l Jesus didn’t patch up an unraveling world in an all-powerful instant, but trusted that his disciples could carry on transforming the world in his absence.
l Paul’s turnaround from stone-throwing sinner to church-building saint.
That God puts more faith in people than people do influences the way I pastor. I’ve become less of a “do it all” minister, putting more trust in my congregation’s ability to unleash their ministering potential.
This has been especially effective with our feeding outreach. The hunger issues in rural communities get overlooked by society. Yet through the congregation’s initiative, almost every week over a hundred people are fed by our food pantry, monthly community meals and monthly distribution of free perishable food staples.
In difficult economic times where much is in short supply, watching people give and receive hope tells me that the 2,000-year-old biblical stories of God’s faith in people aren’t just platitudes of borrowed faith from generations past. Faith in people is something we need to possess to overcome today’s problems together.
— Send e-mail to Andrew Mitchell at email@example.com.