Many Christians around the world begin celebrating Easter with Lent, a 40-day period before Easter which begins on Ash Wednesday. Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday, celebrates the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where people spread palm branches and clothing before him.Good Friday is the day Jesus died on the cross and, Easter Sunday is Jesus’ resurrection.
As I reflect back on my journey to Israel, the visit to the Mount of Olives where Jesus had his last supper is a reminder of what Easter really means. Many people think of Easter as the colored eggs, plenty of candy, and the Easter Bunny. But I am reminded of Christ’s final journey, from the place where Pontius Pilate condemned him to die, to where he bore his own cross, to the site where he was hung, to the tomb where he rose from the dead. These steps leading to Christ’s crucifixion leave me awakened to the truly beautiful possibilities of life because the very moment Jesus rose from the dead, was the very moment we would be given everlasting life. Christians would now receive new life after death.
As I passed through the Garden of Gethsemane where Christ was delivered to the Romans and paraded through the streets of Jerusalem, before being nailed to a cross, in between two criminals, I recalled that, even as Christ hung on the cross, he saved the repentant soul of one of those criminals. Christ always reached out to those who were different than Himself.
As Christians, we feel comfortable with other Christians. We feel safety in worshipping together. We feel peace in socializing together. And we feel righteousness in standing against those who seek to bring moral and ethical decay to the culture of this nation. But is it enough to just stand together? Is it enough to just stand against? Should we not also, as Christ did, reach out to those who believe and behave differently from us? When was the last time you saw someone in desperation and extended your hand?
We should not make the mistake of thinking that those who believe and behave differently from us cannot be good people. It is too easy to say that those who believe as we do are good and those who believe otherwise are bad. That worldview, while convenient and expedient, is compassionless and ill conceived.
Christians must reach out to those who do not believe. We must provide an example that will inspire others to follow. We must see the good in others. We must condemn behavior and not people. We have nothing to fear in reaching out. Those who believe differently will not shake our beliefs. Those who act differently will not change our behavior. As long as we are grounded in faith, we can walk securely with anyone, anywhere.
So this Easter, let us not just think of chocolate bunnies and colored eggs, but remember the sacrificed and risen Christ. Let us also remember the compassionate Christ who reached out to a person totally different from Himself to provide comfort and salvation. Instead of condemning those who believe and worship differently from us, let us start embracing and having real dialogue for their understanding of our faith and belief system.