I’ve been going to a Bible Study with some friends on Fridays. I’ve had no split-second conversion, of course, but it’s interesting to be there and to watch the way they interact with one another. On Easter Sunday, when my grandmother came to visit me, she asked whether we’d discussed the Resurrection during our last study.
“Did you guys talk about the Resurrection?”
“Did you talk about how, when Jesus—“
“We read a chapter of Ephesians.”
I know that Easter is meant to celebrate the empty tomb, see; I get that most churches do a special service about it. I’ll deny no one their holiday. Still, for me, it just drives home the idea that people only look toward Jesus to see his death and how it led to reconciliation between us and God. I’m interested in Jesus, but it’s not so much in the way he died or his mystical return from the grave. Like I told my grandmother, we’ve all heard that story. I’m more interested in the way Jesus lived.
The thing is, Jesus wasn’t simply here to act as a sacrificial offering; if that were the case, God could have sent him down in a blaze of light and burned him up so that no one would question what had happened. No, Jesus lived to make it possible for Earth to touch Heaven. Being both human and divine, he had our frailty as well as exact knowledge of what God wanted from him. He was the perfect example of what we are all supposed to be; we are not Christ, but in faith and action, if we’re doing it right, we should be damn close. Though Jesus is the Son of God, we also have that divinity in us—after all, God breathed man into life.
Has anyone ever wondered why Jesus had apostles? One mustn’t think that he could not have shown people who he was without a gang constantly following him; the guy was pretty convincing. He did need someone after he’d gone on to Heaven to share the story of who he was and what he did. This is the most obvious reasoning. However, Jesus could have told all the apostles about this; he could have given them visions of it; he could have done any number of things and been sure of their loyalty because of who he is. He could have made the whole world sit up and listen. Instead, he chose to have the apostles suffer alongside him and see with their own eyes what he did. Every parable that he told, they heard; they watched the miracles he performed. They, too, learned to hang out around the prostitutes and tax collectors. He was their Rabbi, their teacher, as well as their Savior, and they learned to go out and spread his Gospel as they had learned it.
I think the Fall—that is, our foray into Original Sin—was tremendously important, and we over-simplify it by saying that humans suck and humans sin. What sort of temptation could the snake have offered Eve if she had been completely satisfied? In Eden, everything was handed to us. God’s love was like that of a parent’s, unconditional and gracious. The thing about that is, well, look at us; even if our parents dole out love and whatever else we need as children, when we get older, most of us still want to leave the house and fend for ourselves. It has nothing to do with not loving them. We simply want to test the waters. Generally, people have way better relationships with their parents once they’ve flown from the nest; it’s in part because we aren’t hanging around and annoying each other all the time and in part because, having done for ourselves, we’re able to appreciate all that they’ve given us. Of course, parents never really let their children go—they’re always on the outskirts, watching and letting us make our own mistakes, but willing to step in if necessary.
The point is, God didn’t make a mistake by letting Eve sin. He knew that she and Adam could never appreciate Him fully without having understood how things would be outside of his paradise. However, He couldn’t simply push them out of His house. They had to have a reason to want to get back in, and they had to be forced to leave without blaming Him for it. Having mankind hate God would probably not have been the best starting point for us. (There’s enough of that now, anyway, thanks to bad religious practice and confining God to a box…or a book.)
So we severed our connection with God. We left his house. We struck out on our own with our wobbly child-legs. The problem is that God is not merely a parent; He is everything for which we yearn. There is nothing better than the Kingdom He wants for us. So there had to be a way for us to come to that Kingdom or, better yet, for us to help build it. We would live in a world made up of the connection between ourselves and God, in a wonderland of that absolute divine love.
And along came Jesus, lantern swinging.
Jesus did not only make the ultimate sacrifice; he was showing us the way to the Kingdom, and that way is not only to believe in his death, but to believe in his life.
We wanted to leave Eden. We wanted to work for what we received. We wanted to build our relationship with God. We wanted to be a part of things.
Well, here we are.
Guys, it’s not as easy as believing a story you’ve heard or even a little soul-tug that you feel. It’s not as easy as falling down at the altar when there is music swelling and people crying. Relationships take effort and time.
They say works are meaningless without faith, and this is true; even atheists have to be working for a reason, or it does nothing for them and little for the people around them. But faith without works is dead, too. If you love God, if you truly want His Will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, then you should be doing it. He’s willing to work with and through us, but He’s not descending any time soon. We are not children anymore.
So what do we do?
Well, you can learn from Jesus, for starters. He taught his followers how to live so that they could teach everyone else, but that path got lost somewhere along the way. The Living Church became a building, sometimes a multi-million dollar building, and love sunk into crap politics, who’s-in-and-who’s-out, fear-mongering, judgment, gossip, greed, and anger that is not at all righteous. This was not the plan, my friends. This is not what Jesus wanted.
Jesus chilled with the outcasts. He touched people no one else would get near.
Jesus never said, “You are not good enough to listen to me.”
He never snapped, “You can’t join this circle.”
He never told anyone, “I’m sorry, but there’s not enough caring/time/resources for you.”
Everything that Jesus did, he did in love. He really had no choice because he loved us and he loved the Father so much. That’s what I want—to love people so deeply that I have no choice but to do good because to do otherwise would hurt too much.
Jesus didn’t stick around after his death for a reason; he was meant to pass the torch. He gave it to his apostles, and they handed it off to others. It went from person to person by word of mouth, through music, through experience, through poetry, and though the Bible, however perfect or imperfect any of that might have been. The point is not that we don’t make mistakes—we are going to, because, despite our best intentions, we are not God—but that we keep trying through them.
You can look at Jesus as a real person or as a bridge metaphor; it’s to your taste, and it matters little to me. Either way, he passed us the torch. I have it now. You have it. It’s burning in that little spark of divinity breathed into us at the beginning of all Creation. We must keep kindling it, keeping using it to set others aflame, and when all things come together in the end, it will be our sun—because it and the light shining from God are one in the same.