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+New York Times+ photographer shows Christ through actions

March 20, 1997

'New York Times' photographer shows Christ through actions

The issue:

Seeing Jesus in others

His view:

To be like Jesus is to act like Jesus.

Matthew Lester

staff photographer

Have you seen Jesus in anyone today? I did not understand the question when it was asked of me.

My best friend asked that question on a late-night car trip. We talked about the sprit of Christ radiating from his people and living by His example. To be a Christian is to live like Jesus, said my friend.

I did not understand. The concept of Christ still living was an abstract idea. I though Jesus was a bearded sandal-wearing man who died for our sins, and was seen only in artwork. I did not realize that people are the artwork through which He can be seen.

The conversation was buried deep in my mind. The question of that night was resurrected later when I least expected it.

During spring break, I attended a photography conference at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Ft. Worth. The conference was titled 'Photojournalism: a Christian Perspective.' Photography and Christianity never seemed to be topics that shared anything in common. I was wrong.

A photographer from The New York Times showed his pictures of presidents and wars. He spoke to the audience about the spirituality he found in photography.

I approached the photographer after he spoke. I was touched by his words and the way he shared his feelings with 300 strangers. I thanked him. He asked about me.

Why would a photographer from The New York Times want to know anything about a nobody like me? He talked with my two friends while looking at our portfolios. He shared advice and photographic inspiration. He wanted to have dinner with us.

The photographer could have eaten with the National Geographic photojournalists and other famous people. But he chose to eat with the young nobodies, the photographically poor in spirit.

We sat down and received strange looks from the other conference participants. Who were these special people that this famous photographer was sharing dinner with at the table? We were not the special ones, the photographer was the special one.

In a profession known for its arrogance, he showed none. He shared thoughts and ideas as if we were his equals. He cared about our future. We were among the people who needed his help and guidance.

As we sat at that table, a strange feeling came over me. I understood what my friend meant in that late-night conversation.

I could see Christ in this New York Times photographer, even though he never mentioned religion during dinner.

Would I act like him if I were in his position? Would I be dining with the National Geographic photographers or the people who needed me? I did not like my answer.

In our comfortable Christianity, Christ often only represents grace, ignoring his teachings. To be like Jesus is to act like Jesus. Maybe one day I'll see Jesus in me.

Copyright © 1997 The Lariat

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