Today is Easter, my favorite holiday. As I celebrate the freedom that Jesus bought for me, I am mindful of the many people that are displaced, enslaved, imprisoned, addicted, and in many other ways not free. What am I to do?
That question is the very purpose of this blog, but it’s insufficient without also asking the question, Why do anything at all?
Why do anything at all to help people we don’t know? Why spend our time and energy sharing in another’s burden? Why try to understand the plight of another when our lives are pretty darn easy? Why take little steps when the problems of this world seem so big? Why speak up for people whose voices are not heard? Why risk our comfort for someone in need? Why welcome someone who doesn’t have a place? Why visit the sick and imprisoned? Why adopt the orphan or support the widow? Why smile at a stranger?
Easter is the perfect day to answer that question because the heart of Easter is the answer. Because Jesus did.
Jesus loved even the least worthy, the most needy, the reprobate, the untouchable, the adversary, the coward, the broken. He threw caste and rank by the wayside, honoring people regardless of their status, appearance, heritage, or reputation. He risked everything to care for people. He welcomed people who sought Him, but He also pursued people, meeting them right where they were. Loving people was His life because those lives were His people. Each person ever to live on this earth is intentionally, purposefully, and lovingly created by God. Jesus came to teach us that. He came to teach us that while we were imperfect and undeserving, able to offer nothing good enough in return, God loved us enough to rescue us from our undoing.
I love because Jesus first loved me.
Hospitals were started by people who saw how Jesus cared for the sick, and they thought they should too. Orphanages were started by people who saw how Jesus valued the lives of children, and they thought they should too. Abolition of slavery was fought for by people who saw how Jesus set people free, and they thought they should too. Loving Jesus means loving the people He loves.
I came to believe in Jesus by first learning Christian theology; it made sense to me. But not much in my life changed initially. Even though I believed that Jesus saved me from my sins, I was still just as selfish, prideful, and inconsiderate. Life even seemed harder after becoming a Christian because the life I knew I should live was usually in contest with the life I wanted to live. But as I pursued the life I wanted to live, crying out to God with all my pains and sorrows along the way, He loved me anyway. He loved me in my brokenness and vanity. He loved me in my abuses and in my deceptions. He loved me as proud and inconsiderate and confused as I was. And in my moments of shame and loneliness and grief, no person could meet me at those depths. But God did. He loved me with a radical, unfaltering love.
I am imperfect, and (dare I say) you are too. For every way that we fall short, we deserve the consequences of those faults. But God decided to bear those consequences for us. He became human and lived a life like all of us. He knew brokenness and hardship. He was targeted by evil. He loved and lost. He was Jesus, a real man who lived a real life. But being also God, He was not imperfect. In His perfection, He was able to stand in our place and bear our consequences, even to the point of His own death. And when He rose again on that Easter morning and resumed His rightful place as our one true God, He saved us. We can have a relationship with Him as we live now, and we can have eternity with Him after our death. This is the Good News!
How can I explain a relationship with an invisible God who rarely speaks audibly to people? There are many ways to attempt to tackle that questions, but they will all fall short under scrutiny until the relationship becomes your own.
When God pursues you and you pay attention, He will change your life. He will establish Himself in your thoughts and your emotions. Your mind, your heart, your body, your spirit, your relationships, and your reactions will begin to change. They will change like they do when you fall in love with someone and you are always thinking about how your words will encourage them, how your deeds will serve them, how your time will be maximized with them. You will start to evaluate how they would react in a certain situation, or you will laugh at something because you have learned it to be something they would laugh at. You will approach conflict with them more patiently because you know that they love you even if they are mad at you. Your life starts to mesh with theirs and inextricably and inexplicably, you find yourselves one. You are a team, forged by the mysterious fusion of love. If ever that love is separated by distance or death, your life is never yours alone again. The relationship has proven itself to you. Nothing can ever take that away from you.
Our rescue and our compulsion to love others comes not merely from the existence of Jesus, not even from the resurrection of Jesus, but from the relationship with the risen Jesus Christ. This relationship is available to all. Yes, that definitely includes you.
You don’t need to have it all figured out in order to start a relationship with Jesus. All you have to do is want it and tell Him so. Just say the words (aloud or silently), “Jesus, I don’t know much about you, but I want to. So I’m giving all I know of me to all I know of you.” As your relationship grows, so will your knowledge of Him and love for Him and others.
If you are intrigued by Jesus, but only a little, try saying instead, “Jesus, if you are really God, I want to want to know you because a relationship with you seems better than a life without you. If you are real, help my unbelief.”
And if you have already decided that Jesus is not God, would you dare to say, “Jesus, I don’t believe in you, so it won’t matter that I’m talking to you. So I’ll just say, I’m not excited by you, I don’t think I need you, and I don’t believe you are God. But if you were real, if you were God, and if you really loved me, I would want to know that. I’m pretty hard to convince, but if you are all-knowing and all-powerful, you can prove it to me. The ball is in your court.”
Say those words every day if you want to. They will change your life. They will bring Easter to your everyday. You will not escape the trials of this life, but you will surely find joy and peace in the midst of them. You will find endless reasons and bountiful capacity to love others.
You were created with a purpose.
You were created with value.
You were created with an invitation to have a relationship with God.
You are loved.