Sunday, March 23, 2008

The dead's alive and the lost is found - glory, hallelujah!

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23
If you're a Christian, then I hope you identify with my last post and that God smiled on you this Easter as well.

If you're not, the post probably sounded like foolishness, inasmuch as it claims to be evidence of an abundant life given by Jesus. You might say that Jesus's signature is not readily visible on the works, and one need not be a Christian to enjoy such simple blessings, so why attribute them to him?

I would say that you're right, but you're mistaken. My Easter Sunday didn't come with a greeting written in the sky or an angelic pancake, but I still saw the divine in what I received.

For his own reasons, our God is a God who hides himself so that he may be sought out by his creatures. And he is also a God who bestows his blessings on all of his children, whether they honor his Son or not.

It is for this reason that, as the seraphim cry out in Isaiah 6:3, the whole earth is full of his glory. We all experience sunrises and smiling babies and friendships as I did today because God loves us all and shows himself through his good gifts.

Such a thing as good could not exist without such a person as God to set the standard. So the enjoyment of any good thing is screaming proof of his existence and his nature. Any response but humble gratitude is off the mark.

But what of that great counterargument, suffering? If all good things come from God, then what of the bad? Is God not then spiteful as often as he is benevolent, and as worthy of curses as of praise?

Indeed, in church today we heard of orphans in Liberia and a missionary's house burning down and the poverty of Malawi, and also death. It is a worthy question to ask how anyone can believe in God in the face of pain and death.

The answer is that the sufferings that touch all and fill the lives of so many testify all the more of God and his goodness. These things entered the world through humanity's choice to reject a world without them.

Adam and Eve were given two trees - one which gave eternal life, and one of which they were promised brought death. They chose the death tree. So do we. We all know what is right but so often choose to do what is wrong.

And the ultimate evil, death, doesn't come from God's design; from the beginning it was not so. Death springs from transgression in the same way that sunflowers spring from sunflower seeds.

Jesus is not made an irrelevant liar by suffering and death. On the contrary, it is through these things that we see desperately our need for him.

Simply, it is through him that they are not the end of the story. They could have been - God wasn't obligated to do what he did - but the wonderful truth of Easter is that they are not. Jesus's birth brought a new human nature into the world, one that was not doomed to trespass. He experienced suffering like none have and hung on a tree so that, impossibly, God could be found just and we could be found blameless.

And he lived again. Death, the unconquered foe, could not hold one who knew no transgression. Jesus left his tomb, never to be touched again by pain or by death.

The Good News is that, for those willing to admit that they need it, his victory is for the sharing.

It is for this reason that Christians can look at a day when the sky turned black and call it Good Friday. And it is for this reason that Easter brings joy, hope, and love.

Joy, because just as Jesus raised from the grave, so shall we.

Hope, because we find ever greater power over our nature which knows good and does evil, and look forward to a day when that release is final.

Love, because to understand Jesus's work for us is to adore him for accomplishing it and to deeply want to live out his example to all his children.

Happy Easter.

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