Easter Sunday is one of the most joyous days of the year for Christians all over the world. We celebrate the triumph of life over death, love over hate, inclusion over exclusion. But, this year, in the midst of our celebrating, we also felt the shock, pain and anger, over the bombings of churches in Sri Lanka.
Very much like the feelings we felt when Muslims were killed while in prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand, not so long ago.
The reality of the world we live in is that no one gets away clean when it comes to our actions that divide, and judge, and turn to violence. We are all guilty. I know we don’t want to admit that. We’d rather be the victim all the time, blame the other for all that is wrong in the world, hide behind our self-righteousness. Again, no one get away clean here.
Sometimes I think the worst response we make in response to this reality is to say, “Well, that’s just the way things are.” Which is to say, things can’t change, God really has no power in the world, faith is just naive, or simply a way of checking out, giving up, smothering the pain with a false sense of security.
And the violence continues.
Some ask, perhaps many ask, “Why does God let these things happen? Why does God allow suffering in the world?” It’s a valid question.
The scriptures are clear on two things regarding suffering. The first is found in Genesis, when we learn that humanity, represented by Adam and Eve (the Hebrew word Adam literally means humanity), in its desire to acquire the knowledge of good and evil, we acquired the power to choose between the two.
This powerful knowledge was the risky thing God allowed in order to have a relationship with us humans, a relationship based on choice. The risk was, obviously, we could choose evil. But a true relationship with God had to allow that freedom to choose otherwise it was not possible for us to have a true relationship with God.
Evil, then, is the turning away from a relationship with God.
The whole of the scriptures is the story of how God works to make things right in light of that risky allowance. From Noah, to Abraham and Sara, to the prophets, God works to make things right. In the end, God makes the decision that the only realistic way of making things right with the world is to enter the world. Emmanuel. God with us. The Word becomes flesh. Jesus of Nazareth.
That’s the second thing. Jesus confronts the powers of evil represented in the civil authority and the religious authority, both evil in the systematic oppression and violence they have come to believe are the real powers in the universe. And those powers do exactly what they always do. They violently destroy the one who challenges their authority, their world view.
And so God suffers.
Just like we do. Just like we have. The depth of love God has for us humans is that God was willing to suffer so that we would never be alone in our suffering. God is right there with us. Walking with us through the difficulties and the pain. God was with those Muslims murdered in New Zealand, was with those Christians who were murdered in Sri Lanka. Wherever there is suffering there we will find God, in the midst of it all, working to bring something life-giving out of it all. That’s the true meaning of Easter. The cross of Good Friday has been neutered. Death has lost its grip on us all.
No matter what else happens, in the end, love wins.