“Is that not the mark of the Medjay that you wear?”
I’m about halfway through Assassin’s Creed: Origins, and it has been a common refrain. Bayek, the protagonist, is one of Egypt’s protectors—there to serve the weak and bring justice to the unjust. Many of the sidequests have centered around this calling. Bayek has been asked to rescue philosophers and free captives. He’s helped rescue survivors from destroyed villages. And at least twice he has been asked to “help a tax collector see the error of his ways”—which in another RPG might mean “negotiate” or “persuade,” but here meant “assassinate.”
The second time the “kill tax collector” mission task popped up, it made me laugh wryly, since I prefer playing paragon characters who actually try to talk to their enemies, but it also gave me pause. I had just helped a man load his wagon with straw. Unfair taxes meant he couldn’t afford to pay workers to do it, and his own son was too young to be of much help. I wondered how he would have felt the next morning, hearing the news that the tax collector was dead from a knife to his throat. Would he feel guilty for having condemned a man to his death? Or would he simply feel grateful that somebody had heard his cry and freed him from his oppressor?
This struck me because I’ve been thinking deeply about my own calling to justice, mercy, and love. My own faith can be pretty intellectual and rules-based at times—go to church, read the Bible, study theology, and any number of other checklist items—but the more I’ve been reading the Bible, the more I’ve come to realize that radical, self-sacrificing love is the real heartbeat of faith. Jesus even says that the 600+ commandments in the ancient laws can be summed up in one sentence: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.
This love is supposed to be as visible as Bayek’s mark of the Medjay. Since I claim to follow Jesus, John 13:35 says that I am supposed to be so loving that people can tell just by how I act towards others.
This is hard! I live alone, so it’s incredibly easy for me to slip into selfishness. I don’t even have a roommate or dog to impose their needs on me. But, of course, there are bigger needs beyond my immediate life. The news is full of things like lost jobs and racism and homes destroyed by Derechos and fires and hurricanes. There are a lot of hurting people, and loving them is hard.
What I can do is reshape my life in small ways to be more loving. This means small choices, like changing how I talk to people on Twitter. Bad takes abound online, and sometimes they do need to be corrected, but it can also be easy to fall in the trap of reacting out of a sense of smug superiority. Before posting my own bad reactions, I’ve learned to run my response past the mental filter of 1 Corinthians 13—that famous wedding passage on love—and ask myself, “Is my response loving? Am I showing patience or kindness? Am I jumping quickly to anger?” In short: “Is my response actually helping anyone?” Sometimes the answer is yes and I post it. More often, I delete it. When I do respond to hot-button issues, I’d rather be known as the person who responds out of love.This love is supposed to be as visible as Bayek’s mark of the Medjay.
I also try to show love through how I spend my money. The last time I redid my budget, I decided to create a separate fund just to help show love to others. That may mean a fun gift to a friend going through a hard time, or it may mean money to support a medical need or relief from a natural disaster. Either way, I can show love to those who need it, if only a little at a time.
These are small steps that fit into my own life—they’re not in any way prescriptive. To be honest, they don’t go very far. But they help train me to be like Bayek. His missions almost always start with a call: a wail of grief, a cry of frustration. Like Bayek, I can listen for these cries, even if I’m doing most of my listening on social media. And slowly, I can learn to wear my love like a Medjay’s badge.