I'm not one to write often about religion or spiritual affairs. Others are better at it, and if we're being honest, perhaps a bit more qualified in the holiness department.
But it wasn't lost on me that amidst this past Sunday's Easter celebrations and the slick marketing we see in our churches, one of the things that often gets lost in the celebration of the resurrection is the brutality of the execution.
Crosses are turned into beautiful, stylized pieces in everything from jewelry, to tattoos, to corporate logos.
"What happened on the cross was a beautiful thing," is a tempting, churchy-sounding catchphrase you might hear this time of year. Except it wasn't.
There was nothing beautiful about crucifixion. It was the most brutal form of punishment in its day. The punishment afflicted on Jesus, the man from Nazareth, was designed to inflict maximum pain and suffering.
Yet, we know from the scripture readings that Jesus went willingly and accepted the fate that awaited him. He didn't raise an army to fight against his oppressors. He didn't condemn them. Instead, he offered up a simple prayer.
"Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
To believe that Jesus was fully God does not do justice to his ministry. Being God, perfect and all knowing in every way, is easy. It is the belief that he was also fully human that puts into true perspective the life that Jesus lived on Earth. To be fully human is to be tempted, just like the rest of us, with the trappings of humanity.
Greed. Anger. Retribution. Surely he must have been tempted to allow his thoughts and actions to go there while facing a tortuous death fueled by all three.
Yet, Jesus overcame all of those with unrelenting love. The entire ministry of Jesus, right up to his death, was a ministry of peace.
Our world today is rife with conflict. The situation in Syria is deplorable. Conflict with North Korea seems ever more inevitable. Even developed democracies, such as the one in which we live, are not immune from a level of political polarization that we've not seen in decades.
How should we respond? What actions are we called to do? What are we politically called upon to support?
It's easy to issue a blanket critique of every fired missile or military show of strength. It's easy to support them in favor of human rights. Information in today's world is murky, international security and human rights issues are complex, and the right answer is often elusive.
If solving our world's problems was easy, there would be no debate on what to do next.
But this is the way the world has always been. The question we must ask ourselves is what does it mean to be a Christian today's world? What does it mean to truly follow the teachings of Jesus and incorporate them into our lives?
I don’t have all of the geopolitical answers, but I do know that a desire for peace must be our default setting, and love for all must be what motivates our lives.
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
The greatest commandments. Simple yet profound.
Easter is an opportunity for everyone, religious and not religious, to examine the state of affairs in their own lives and in the world around them, and to engage in a period of renewal.
We have an opportunity to do that right now. This Easter, let's pray for peace.
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