I cut my grass this morning (last neighbor on the street to do so... sorry, neighbors), which always gives me some uninterrupted time to think. Being Good Friday in the Christian faith, I thought a lot about death - my own, of course, since I'm a self-centered American - but also that of Jesus'.
I also want to be clear that I am not making an attempt here to tell you how to think, feel, or live. I rarely trust my own opinions, though I do know a few things to be true.
Here's some completely unacademic things I considered while mowing the lawn:
1. The process of crucifixion is an especially heinous way to die. What does this say about a God who would choose to die this way? And what does is say about him that he went through with it? I think he must really hate sin, and he must really have wanted to fix the brokenness. He spared no brutality nor did he spare any part of himself.
2. If I was to truly get what I deserve, my death would surely look like Jesus'. But the power of sin died with him, and if I am to truly believe this, then I am to also believe that I have been forgiven, healed, and restored. So when God looks at me, I am holy and blameless as if I'd never sinned at all. If this is true, why then do I continually strive to wallow in my own guilt, shame, and failure when God himself does not see me so?
3. Society likes a murderer. The crowd chose to set free a killer instead of Jesus. Somewhere in there is a distortion in perception. Would an individual, if given the choice, choose to set free a murderer over someone who had been convicted of nothing? I wouldn't think so generally. But our weird world is such that when a bunch of us get together and people are all shouting things at each other, killing innocent folks seems like a perfectly legit idea.
4. Jesus let a murderer off the hook. Under the penalty of the law, Barrabus deserved death; if Jesus was truly who we say he is (the son of God), then he could have saved his own skin. Instead, he let a killer go free. He gave him his life back and with that, Jesus gave Barrabus a choice of what to do with it. Jesus didn't walk around proclaiming his "rightness," and he didn't push himself on anyone. Does this square with what we do as a church in America (me included)?
5. Truth is truth. While not brow-beating others to accept, follow, or worship him, Jesus did speak a whole lot of truth. And the thing about truth is that you can love it or hate it, but it does not change. If something is true, it is not subject to popular opinion, data, or persuasive bantering. Like death. Love it or hate it - you're going to die. And me, too.
6. So what about our own deaths? We are certainly good at using the word "sin" to do whatever we want it to, and much like the word "love," it has lost its effective meaning. Sin is not a list of "Do Nots;" it is more like a condition, a way of being. It's dying a slow death on the inside without even realizing it. It's having no way out of the hole our lives are born into. It's the outcome of the first bad decision being compounded by every other bad decision everyone else has made for the last gazillion years. To say sin is simply using curse words or drinking alcohol excessively is like saying breast cancer is just an illness. Sin is way broader, deeper, and inside our bones than refraining from harsh speech or excessive drinking can fix.
I've been dying since the day I was born. No one taught me how to lie, to hurt, or to hate. Those options came standard. I don't know why deep down I am so angry; by all accounts, my life has been way easier than a lot of folks'. But these things have always been there, and if Jesus is who he says he is, if he truly took all that deep-seeded crap that has always been there and got punished for it... and if I truly am no longer bound to this broken condition... then I pray to see what's on the other side of his death.
For I am familiar with dying; I'd like to know more about living.