There once was a great man named Jesus. He was alive, then he was dead — killed mercilessly, though he didn’t do anything wrong. Now he’s alive again. That’s the basic storyline of Christianity and Easter. What it all means is as dramatically different as each individual person’s story.
For traditional Christianity, Jesus took our sins to the grave and came up without them. If you believe that, you are “saved” and go to heaven when you die. If you believe that, the promise is that you can live a new life, without all of your old sins. Moreover, you will want to, out of the simple joy and gratitude that you have been saved. While I believe that, there are whole parts of the story I struggle with — that God made Jesus die on the cross, for instance, that I have trouble with. The idea that this is what loving parents require of their children is another idea I have trouble with.
Here’s my take on it: You can’t keep a good man (or woman) down. The better the person, the more important it is for all of us that they can’t die forever — Jesus being the best of the best. Depending on what you think Jesus represents, Easter can mean a whole bunch of things.
Jesus, for instance, is called “The Way, the Truth, and the Life”…
If Jesus is “goodness” incarnate, Goodness cannot die, whereas Evil can, and will.
If Jesus is “the Ultimate Truth”, Truth cannot die, whereas Falsehood can and will.
If Jesus modeled a Way of life, then that way of life is the way to live forever. Any other way will kill you, either slowly or quickly, physically or emotionally.
If Jesus is Spirit, then the Spirit lives forever, even as the body perishes.
If Jesus was important enough to be risen, even though he hung out with low-lifes while here, then maybe, we’ll be risen, too, even if we hang out with low-lifes.
If Jesus was the Suffering Servant, then suffering and serving leads to life, while never doing either leads to a certain kind of death.
If Jesus is Justice incarnate, then justice will win out in the end, and what is unjust will pass away.
If Jesus is Mercy incarnate, then mercy will survive, while judgement and savagery will end.
I believe that Jesus is all of those things and this informs my clinical work at times. I tell my clients (because I believe it) that truth will win out, that goodness never dies, that if you live a good life, you’ll be proud of your life and you will not be forgotten. I tell people that their spirit (or Spirit, if you prefer) is the most important thing in life. I tell people that the best man ever hung out with people just like them. I tell people all the time that suffering makes you a better person if you choose to do it — for yourself or for the good of others. I tell them that justice will win out in the end and that mercy leads to a long life, while shame and harshness won’t get you where you want to go.
When an abused, traumatized person who has never been believed comes to me, it is important for them to hear that someone knows what happened to them, that the truth will come out, that the evil won’t win out in the end.
When an addicted person comes to see me, full of sorrow and self-hatred, I tell them they can save their lives, even when they are beyond hope themselves.
When a person has been ripped off by a system or corruption prevails in their life, I tell them that, in the end they will win in some way or another because their life has meaning and injustice can’t and won’t last forever.
Even if I never speak about Jesus directly, I can tell them what they need to hear, because I already believe what they need to hear.
So, in true do-your-own-theology style, I encourage you to think about what Truth seems beyond hope, what piece of justice seems dead now, what piece of mercy survives in your heart, despite all odds, what powers seem impossible to overcome, what hurt seems it’ll never heal, what dead part of your life seems like it’ll never come back . And,on Sunday — or any “Easter” day in your life — remember that what’s important, what gives life meaning, what heals you, what is good and true and just, can come back to life, as sure as a dead guy 2000 years ago did. Remember that nothing is over until God says it is. Happy Easter.
(Happy birthday, Claire; Happy Birthday, SIlas)