We are Easter people in a Good Friday world. If we, who belong to Christ, follow our Risen Lord and incarnate his way of Life, then we are going to have trouble in a world that is addicted to death. Being in the world, but not being of the world is hard. How else could it be?
In a dog-eat-dog world, to forgive seventy times seven makes no sense. It’s weird. It’s wrong. But it is also the way to stop hate. It’s hard to forgive someone who should not be forgiven. But as we do, we break the chain that keeps us enslaved to wrath, violence, and retribution.
All of Christ’s ways are antithetical to the ways of the world. That should not surprise us. The antithesis of death is life. The opposite of selfishness is selflessness. That’s why so many of Christ’s teachings involve reversal: The first becoming last and the last becoming first. Losing your life in order to save it. Christ’s Easter way intends to roll back, counter, and transform the way the world is and the way we are.
Our old, self-centered nature is never fully displaced. The tyrannical ego still tries to enthrone itself as the ruler of our hearts. That’s why following Christ often involves struggle. In fact, if you are not struggling at least some in following Christ, you’re probably not as fully engaged in that Life as you could be.
If you think about it, the church – the Body of Christ, which is made up of all who believe and seek to follow Christ – is really a resistance movement that is engaged in confronting the powers and principalities that seek to exploit, dominate, and destroy.
In World War II, evil ruled in Germany, but there were countless, courageous Germans who opposed that evil. The wealthy industrialist Oscar Schindler saved hundreds of his factory workers from execution. After their son was killed in combat, a working-class couple Otto and Elise Hampel channeled their grief into action by secretly distributing all across Berlin handwritten cards denouncing the war and urging resistance. Pacifists like the peasant farmer Franz Jagerstatter refused to serve in the army because of their faith. The aristocratic officer Claus von Stauffenberg and others tried to overthrow the government multiple times. Devout Christians, including the dissenting pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, preached against the war, hid fugitives, spied for the Allies, and undermined the German war effort, risking their lives – and often losing them – because they refused to be complicit with evil.
None of us should seek martyrdom, but all of us should be willing to stand up and be counted: When someone is being bullied at school; when a coworker is being unfairly treated; when someone who is different is marginalized; when we see someone falling through the cracks.
Our action, our faith, our love makes a difference. When we extend ourselves in faith to act, we are really extending Easter. By grace, we are incarnating Easter. We become the living edge of Christ’s Easter Kingdom of love, justice, and peace. In Christ and by the Spirit, we become the channel through which a higher set of values is born/borne on Easter’s advancing edge. Being on that edge is often costly. We should never underestimate the cost. But we should never underestimate as well the joy.
Case in point: The refugee family we just resettled. Seven, small local churches teamed up to do what none of us could do separately: We helped a family out of hell. Fleeing a war zone, they arrived with nothing. They lost everything. But you, the Church, welcomed, shared, and helped them create a new life. You loved them into life. Resurrection happened thanks to God and you. It was not easy, but it was good. Getting to know this family has blessed us all. Their joy has brought us joy. Their healing has brought us healing. Their resurrection has resurrected us.
Deep joy can be found when we live out the often-demanding, counter-cultural, Easter ways of Christ. Yes, doing what is right is difficult. Sacrificial generosity is costly. Genuine love takes it out of you – but it also puts something back into you, too: And that something is Life – the best life of all.
Don’t just wait for eternal Life to start when you get to heaven. You can have that Life now. Give yourself away in love. Love everyone as Christ loves us all. Despite the cost, join the resistance. Share Resurrection. Be part of the avant-garde of God’s Easter order. Make Easter come alive today.