The Easter story is an unexpected injection of hope in a world gone mad with power and violence.
Jesus found himself in the middle of much of it: on one hand he refused to be corralled by the politics of a militant empire; on the other hand he criticized the selfish actions of the religious systems.
He was a troublemaker and he threatened peace and safety.
So they killed him.
. . .
So it’s official – spring is here. I know this because today we opened the windows of the house to let it ‘air out’ from the winter staleness and I am sitting here breathing in sweet, clean country air. Isn’t it interesting that fresh air has a smell, kind of a non-smell smell? Or a clothes-from-a-clothesline scent for those of you who have experienced that.
Open windows are such a psychological contrast to the bunker-like isolation that is necessary right now while the latest coronavirus swarms around us.
For true introverts like myself, social distancing is a gift. In a world that is pushed and shoved and forced on us by extroverts, having permission to stay at home is gold, on the same scale as getting a new car for your birthday.
Yet, even with our various personalities, we are nevertheless social creatures and not many of us do well with true, extended isolation. There are many right now who are suffering from heightened anxiety, fear, confusion, and boredom. That must be so, so difficult.
Times like these highlight both the brokenness and the beauty of the human race.
Consider the selfishness:
- Shoppers hoarding huge amounts of hand sanitizer, food, toilet paper, even insulin, leaving supplies depleted for their neighbours;
- Stores upping the cost of some of those items by 200 – 300 percent;
- Still others who bought huge amounts of those products to resell at up to 1000%;
- Hospitals running short of personal protective equipment because of theft;
- The infamous university students whose highest priority is partying together on Saint Patrick’s Day or collecting on Florida beaches for spring break during a recommended quarantine;
- U.S. Senators who used inside information about the virus to sell off millions of dollars of stocks before the public was aware;
- Major companies immediately laying off or providing zero hours to employees, usually the lowest wage earners;
- Necessary school closures resulting in children not getting a proper, daily meal in some areas.
Consider the generosity:
- It seems like the threat of war is much lower as everyone battles a common enemy;
- Social media is being used for good, as people post encouraging words, videos, communications, thanks, crafts, and the like. Virtual concerts, field trips, and museums available at no cost and even an artist leading a daily, streamed art-doodle time for children. There has been a constant supply of cute kids, puppies, kittens and more than enough music, nature, prayers for us all to consume;
- Neighbours are helping and visiting shut-ins even though they can’t touch;
- Companies and private citizens are donating money, food, shelter, etc. to those in need;
- Retailers are altering store hours to help seniors;
- Manufacturers are making their facilities available to make whatever products are needed (how about the whiskey makers who are now making alcohol for hand sanitizer?);
- Montreal hospitals offering $200,000 award for the best idea for a cheap, simple ventilator;
- Retired medical personnel are coming out of retirement to help frontline workers;
- Dolphins venturing to the Italian shoreline due to the absence of boats, or the now clean water in the canals of Venice;
- Or, if you really want to feel good, check out this virtual choir or this one that has been resurrected online.
Two important points:
- Humans are every bit as capable of selfishness and violence as you can imagine.
- Humans are every bit as capable of generosity and love as you can imagine.
And don’t forget that the word ‘human’, includes you and me.
I have always had a fascination with Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus. I mean, he was a disciple, with Jesus every day and a witness to who he was, yet he remains in history as a brooding, soulless character. And no one can seem to identify what was in his heart, what his motives were for betrayal.
From my perspective, there is an interesting exchange in John 12 where Judas is critical of Mary of Bethany using expensive oil for Jesus. He justifies his anger by saying that the money could have been used for the poor, although the author’s opinion is simply that Judas was money-hungry. But that gives us a little peek into Judas’s heart: perhaps his own ideals were not being met by Jesus so Judas makes excuses for finding another way.
You see, I have done that too. If I have a self-centred opinion, I can find a good reason to justify it. I can do such a good job of justification that I convince myself it is 100% legitimate. Yet really, I have chosen to close my eyes.
Put another way, Judas knew what was right but couldn’t bring himself to put rightness above himself. In the story of the Crucifixion there was plenty of violent behaviour to go around: Judas’s violence was betrayal, the apostles’s violence was abandonment, the religious leaders violated truth. Pilate’s violence was simply washing his hands.
Like those characters, we are capable of incredible self-righteousness and self-deception. In the story of the Sheep and the Goats, the people to the left of the King are truly confused as to why they are in trouble. The King explains that they are in trouble simply because they have chosen to be unseeing.
There are plenty of people calling for prayer now that Covid-19 is in our backyard. Good. But I had a rude revelation a couple of days ago when I thought, How many of us (especially Christians) prayed for China two months ago? And how many of us cared about sick Chinese citizens when they were fighting for their lives?
Most of us felt badly but we didn’t feel badly enough to be moved. Let’s own it: not caring about someone is a violence against them.
Living for myself is a violence against what is around me. Not caring for the sick is a violence against the weak. Not calling out a lie is a violence against truth. Not calling out an abuser is a violence against the victim. Not protecting the innocent is a violence against those Jesus loves. Not standing for right is a violence against righteousness.
And violence kills.
My violence included.
It’s why the Crucifixion happened.