If we were asked to describe what Christ looks like, many of us would conjure similar mental images: a young man with a pale complexion, long hair, and flowing robes. There’s limited evidence to support this image, but Christians throughout the ages have taken the idea and run with it. However, in light of my recent experiences, I would like to challenge this view.
I have spent the past two years teaching at a high risk inner city school in Memphis, Tennessee. Our community has some of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, violent crime, and gang activity in the country, and yet I have seen Christ at work more in these two years than any other time in my life.
Instead of appearing in his Easter finery, I now see Christ dressed in the dirty polo and baggy shorts of a young man striving to be the first in his family to graduate high school. In lieu of opulent vestments, Christ has shown himself to me as a teenage mother determined to set the best example for her infant child and better both of their lots in life. He has left behind the finery of the holidays and instead dons a winter coat two sizes too small as he puts in hours of extra effort just to keep up with his classmates. Whereas most of us think of Christ in his kingly attire, I see him in the faces of my beloved students.
For it is in them that I see what Christ strives to teach: earnestness of purpose, kindness towards your fellow man, and (most importantly) unconditional love. Despite near insurmountable odds, they strive to rise above. And I think therein lies the power of the “Incognito Christ”.
He is hidden around every poorly kept corner of South Memphis where my children reside. By hiding in plain sight, he is bringing joy, hope, love, courage, and relief where it is most desperately needed by way of his most humble servants.
As we observe the joyous occasion of Christ’s resurrection, I challenge you to find the “Incognito Christ” in your day to day life and celebrate the love he shows you therein. Can you see Christ in the person who is so very different from you?
-Emily Sholtis is a lifelong Episcopalian and graduate of Georgia Tech. After college, she joined Teach For America Memphis corps.