Sunday, April 5, 2015

He Died, So We May Live


 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him." Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned and said to him in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"-and that he had said these things to her. 
John 20:1-18
Easter reminds me of something better than tolerance; I was loved to death.  I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus. I believe in doing our best to follow God’s word and make it an active part of our lives.  I also believe that every human being should be treated with dignity, respect and love—no if's, and's or but's about it!  I am heavily dismayed when I hear that people of my faith truly believe that discriminatory laws such as Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) are admissible.
As a Christian, I know the Bible speaks to any number of critical topics that shape the trajectory of my life. I value my religious liberties and believe they must be protected, but I think what this means is that I am allowed to worship the way I wish to and no one can force me to practice a particular religion or to practice my religion in a particular way.  However, my beliefs are confined to the walls of my church.  Outside and inside of my church though, I must follow the dictates of Jesus and try to live and worship by his example. I cannot, not will I ever try to force someone to believe what I believe. At the same time, I can't escape this sinking feeling that politics, convenience and more than a little resistance to other perspectives has muddled the central redemptive message of my faith.  Easter brings all that back into focus.
A radical Jewish teacher despised by the religious establishment stood before false accusers and politicians. The proceedings against him were not just; it was a lynch mob. They mocked him. They beat him. They spit in his face.  He did not become angry. He did not vehemently defend his religious liberties. He did not go down swinging a sword. In fact, with little regard for himself, he stood and calmly answered. He knew it meant his death, a cruel death on a cross.  But that was the point.  His singular objective was to show just how much he loved broken, fallen people riddled with sin and pain. He even asked God to forgive those who drove the nails through his hands and feet.  He ministered to those that others ignored and gave hope to the downtrodden and outcasts because they needed his message of hope the most.  Jesus did far more than tolerate those who despised him. He loved each one of us to death...literally.  In a world where tolerance isn't even the norm, that's hard to comprehend. Why would anyone do something like that?
Unlike the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993, Indiana’s RFRA leaves room for religious freedom to be used as a defense if for-profit businesses are accused of discrimination. Laws like this are the antithesis of the love that Jesus demonstrated because any law that leaves room for the denial of basic human needs and dignity is immoral.
When discrimination happens around the world to people who identify as Christians, we are infuriated. When discrimination happens to people of ethnic minorities, we call it unjust. When discrimination happens to women, we say it’s appalling. When discrimination happens to children, we say it’s detestable. When discrimination happens to religious minorities, we say it’s abominable.  Why then are so many people who call themselves Christians silent, indifferent or even in support of this treatment when it comes to LGBTQ people?
Are we not human? Do we not deserving of a chance at life here on this earth and in heaven? The answer my friends, whether or not you affirm our sexual orientation or gender identity, is that we do indeed deserve a chance at life!  LGBT people deserve all of the basic essentials that straight people deserve such as eating a meal peacefully at a restaurant or a night’s stay at an inn or medicinal treatment at a private medical practice if they are in need.  LGBT people deserve dignity and respect because we are humans and because God does not ever put a person on this planet if they are not meant to be here. The type of systematic injustice that is allowed under Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act is in blatant violation of anything that Jesus Christ stood for because Jesus Christ stood for life. 
Whatever a person’s identity or beliefs, there is no question that we are all human.  And my purpose as a fellow human being and a follower of Jesus is to do all in my power to make sure that every person I encounter is shown love.
As a Christian, I also believe in the freedoms granted to us by the First Amendment, including the freedom of religion! I love that I am publicly allowed to wear my cross necklace and read my bible app and talk about God with my friends or people who want to. I love that my boyfriend and I can eat at a restaurant and openly talk about our religious beliefs without fear of persecution!  But also remember that only 60 years ago “religious freedom” was used as the justification for laws that permitted racial segregation.  I would hate to see us go back to a society that supports discrimination and exclusion. 
Amazing opportunities for ministry and human connectivity close when a person decides to shut someone out because of their identity.  At the end of the day, I believe in compassion, empathy, and a concern for human dignity.  I ask you this: where in the scriptures did Jesus ever deny or say it was acceptable to deny any human being access to food, shelter, water or medicinal care? Where did he preach that killing, torturing, humiliating, bullying and isolating people was ok or allowed to be the law of the land?  The answer is nowhere. Jesus is compassion. Jesus is mercy. Jesus is forgiveness. Jesus is just. Jesus is grace. Jesus is love. Jesus never turned away a human in need. He embraced them with open arms.
Many Christians have gotten so wrapped up in themselves and in legality that they are forgetting human dignity, compassion and the Gospel.  They are forgetting the very Christ who they fell in love with: The man who healed the sick, feed the hungry, comforted the brokenhearted and perfectly exemplified the love that God has for us all. They have forgotten that it is not our righteousness but God’s grace that saves us all.
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” 
Romans 13:8-10 
Let’s remember to be like Jesus. Let’s live out His love!  Unconditional and universal love is Jesus's powerful example this Easter. It does not change the nature of sin or require you to endorse it. Jesus sacrificed himself as a redemptive act of love because we couldn't save ourselves. We still can't.  For Christians, this should be about how we respond to a broken hurting world. Will we respond to those who hate us by telling them what we believe or will we show them real love inspired by the One who first loved us to death?

5 comments:

Susan said...

Beautiful, Joe. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts today. I wish you a joyous Easter.

dl.miley said...

Beautifully said. It is sad that so few are willing to hear such a message even if it is shared. I can predict the people on my FB account who would read this, like it and share it, even if it did not contain anything about LGBT acceptance.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written, Joe. It is sad that in the name of religious freedom that LGBT people are condemned. You captured the message of Easter's hope beautifully.

greenbeltandy said...

When you open a business to serve the public, you serve the public, plan and simple. Unless the customer is disrespectful or abusive, there is no reasonable basis to deny service to anyone in the public square.

Is that concept so difficult to grasp? I thought the Civil Rights Act of 1965 settled that issue 50 years ago.

Your interpretation of Jesus and his love are spot on. Hate spewed in his name is totally contrary to every fiber of his being.

Amanda said...

Thank you for your wonderful post. Jesus was love and people should spread that instead of hate.