Easter is just over a week away and it brings to mind a springtime long weekend, pastels, bunnies, chickees, eggs, and CHOCOLATE! It also includes a festive Sunday morning church service with best dresses, excited musical pageantry over Christ’s triumphant resurrection and an afternoon with family around an abundant table. Tucked in there is the somber assembly on Good Friday for those who choose to acknowledge it and the violence that makes all the other celebrations as intensely beautiful as they are.
Distaste for Violence
Violence. I’m extremely sensitive to it. If something overtly violent is going to happen in a movie I hide my eyes or walk out of the room until it is over. I was always this way but increasingly so after becoming a mother and even more so as I age. Images of brutality stick in my head and disrupt my sleep. I don’t mind action movies with some thematic fighting but the closer the focus is on gore itself and the attempts at making it gruesomely realistic, the more I shrink away. The irony is that Easter is a memorial of one such event that I instinctively wish to pretend never happened.
While I pay tribute to Holocaust Remembrance Day, Easter, and Remembrance Day (Veterans Day), for all the reasons we should, I’ll be honest…part of me avoids looking too closely. I can’t stand the idea of suffering and it mentally shorts me out to think these events happened at all. Even more so specifically, miscarriages of justice due to zealous religious error married with political corruption.
I want to stay protected in my safe, clean, happy bubble. Still, I’m brought to a keen understanding through the observance of these memorials that we have conveniently slotted violence into neat, segmented compartments that we CAN avoid if we wish. This is a privilege paid for by others who suffered its wrath.
Remembering Protects Our Future
No, we honour those who were scarred by historical violence so we, our children and our grandchildren can be free and safe from it. Remembering sets our markers. It reminds us of what could be if we don’t protect and nurture love in its purest form. Love for God and love for others. That is the embodiment of Easter. It is exactly what the son of God modeled for us to follow.
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A movie that I suggest but had a particularly difficult time watching due to violence is Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ. It is probably the most accurate depiction of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion with the exception of some brief scenes that take some poetic license with the devil’s role. It is a chilling blend of the gospels and historical records of how crucifixion is described in that era.
Even devout Christ followers who have rehearsed the suffering of Easter passion over a lifetime struggle to watch the horror that was unleashed on our saviour. I’ve heard these words in my mind as I am tempted to look away. As though Jesus himself was whispering, “I went through this for YOU, the least you could do is watch”. Others have shared this exact same experience. Through tears we keep our eyes fixed on every blow inflicted on our Lord and it brings us to our knees in repentance and love.
Looking the Other Way
The point is that the truth is there for anyone who is willing to look at it, but the violence and what it speaks to our souls is painful to take in because it demands a decision. Rather than face the discomfort we shut it out and because we have free will, we can.
Regardless of one’s religious beliefs or lack of, one cannot factually deny the existence, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ without dismissing official historical documentation and multiple recorded testimonies that meet the standard of legal testimony in our courts today. Of course, there will always be those who claim that the death, burial and resurrection of a divine human did not happen but any sincere attempt to back that up with reliable facts is impossible.
The Proof is There
I was impacted by the book and later, the movie, based on Lee Strobel’s journey from self-proclaimed Athiest turned Christian believer called the Case for Christ. It is an auto-biographical account of a journalist who set out to prove to his newly converted wife…and his journal readers…that the foundation of Christianity (the resurrection) was a myth. Spoiler alert: He doesn’t. Not only does he fail to prove that the resurrection is a fabrication but he is actually convinced of the opposite and converts to Christianity himself. He realizes that in the end it takes a decision of faith to believe either way and the evidence is stacked higher towards the truth of resurrection than against. I highly recommend both the book and the movie. Especially at this time of year. (See Amazon links to purchase or view on Netflix Canada)
Beliefs Equal Choices
Lately I discussed the historical facts of Jesus existence, his documented suffering, death and resurrection with a person who claims to not believe as I do. Since I know this individual’s value for verified facts, I asked them if they could explain exactly what they DID believe and how it was rooted in factual evidence.
It didn’t surprise me that they hadn’t embarked on the journey of discovery that Lee Strobel had taken. They wondered why they had to believe anything at all. They simply chose NOT to think about it. So why was it so important that they label themselves with a belief system?
That was a good question. Why do we have to know what we believe? More importantly, why do we need to examine the evidence intelligently to know what we believe is true?
It’s important to know what we believe and why because we make our daily life decisions based from our belief system. Whether we acknowledge it or not, our belief system steers our choices. If we believe wrong, we will choose wrong. Easter is the glorious story of a divine, yet human man (Jesus) who chose perfectly right even unto death and in so doing, freed mankind from the curse of a man and a woman (Adam & Eve) who started the sequence of choosing wrong.
My mother, Rev. Catherine Ciaramitaro, wrote a book called The Cross and a follow up devotional called 101 Reasons to Live a Cross-Centred Life. These works were birthed after her viewing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. The Cross goes through all the things our Lord suffered and explains one by one why He had to suffer that way and how it impacts us. When we realize that our Saviour chose to experience as a man the different types of suffering that we experience, it is impossible not to see the intense love expressed in every detail of his suffering and death.
This next week I encourage you to look at the violence of Easter with new eyes. The question isn’t whether it happened but rather why it happened. Lee Strobel determined the answer to be LOVE. Reconciliation between God and man was needed and Jesus’ sacrifice was the ONLY way for that to happen. His love drove him to embrace unthinkable suffering so we wouldn’t have to.
Celebration of Hope
We don’t stay in the inhumane violence though. It is an important distinction of Christianity and thus the climax of the Easter observance that violence and death were not the final objective. It is the victory over sin and death that we rejoice over. It is the hope that emerged from the bloody, sacrificial love. Unlike the founders of other faiths, our Lord is not dead. He is ALIVE and working actively in the lives of those who believe in and serve Him today.
Hurt by Church
I encourage you to re-examine and celebrate Easter in context of a bible-believing church this year. I speculate that if you have read this post to this point and feel any offense at my words, that it is most likely that you have been injured by people who proclaim to follow Christ. You may have found some relief from that injury by putting space between you and the people who harmed you but if no resolution was experienced, you could still bear an infected wound in your heart today that is keeping you from experiencing true peace and wholeness in your life. Fortunately, there is an answer.
Even if church has hurt and marked you in the past, I invite you to focus on what Jesus did on the cross, forgive the past and come back. Learning to live out our faith in the context of community with all its messiness and opportunities for reconciliation is actually the point.Take a seat and join in the communal celebration of a divine man who braved far worse so that we could all be forgiven. There is hope for all of us.
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