Over the last year you have heard me quote often from If Grace Is True by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. There's a reason for that. Their book has helped me to crystallize some ideas and concepts I've been mulling over for years.
You see, I've long been dissatisfied with the traditional explanation of Jesus' death and resurrection. For reasons I don't have time explore in this column, I cannot accept the notion that somehow Jesus' death was the price God demanded in order to satisfy God's righteousness and God's love at the same time, nor that Easter is the promissory note on eternal life for those who believe.
With the help of Gulley and Mulholland I now subscribe to a different view - one that squares more fully, in my humble opinion, with the witness of scripture and my own experience of God and God's grace.
I no longer believe Jesus came to this world to die. I believe Jesus came to this world to tell us about God's love and grace. He came to tell us God is not a God of judgment, but of mercy. But there are too many of us in this world who have a stake in keeping things as they are. So Jesus suffered the fate of all those who challenge the status quo of fear and manipulation. He was killed, and by rejecting him we rejected God's message of grace to us.
But the story doesn't end there. Jesus' resurrection is God's response to our attempt
to maintain the status quo. If Good Friday was the end of the story Jesus' death would be merely one more pitiful narrative of a good man defeated by evil and humiliated in death. But Good Friday isn't the end of the story. If Good Friday is our rejection of God, then Easter is God's rejection of our rejection.
All of which means none of us is outside the reach of God's grace. Contrary to what the popular novels would have us believe, no one is "left behind" from God's grace.
Therefore, because of Easter God's grace cannot be thwarted by what you have done to life. No matter what mistakes you've made, no matter how poor your choices, you are never outside the bounds of God's grace.
Also, because of Easter, God's grace cannot be thwarted by what life has done to you. You don't have to be a prisoner to your past.
And, finally, because of Easter, God's grace cannot be thwarted by what lies beyond this life. Even death itself cannot hinder the reach of God's grace.
So as you celebrate Easter in a few weeks, as you sing "Christ the Lord is risen today," as you hear again the story of the empty tomb, stop and reflect on what it means to you, to your sense of guilt, to your personal pain, to your fears and anxieties. Perhaps you'll join me in the rousing shout of our Eastern Orthodox sisters and brothers:
Christ is risen!