I saw so many messages in my Instagram feed today with this message. Today is Easter Sunday, so it makes sense. The conversation I wish I could have with everyone who shared that is – “And?”
What does that mean for you? How does that effect how you live your life?
In Jesus time on earth, he repeatedly talked about the Kingdom of God. He used many stories and analogies to get people to understand what the Kingdom of God meant – that it was like a lost treasure, a contradictory place where the last are first and the first are last, where rich people find it nearly impossible to enter, where the poor and the humble are blessed and lifted up.
Being a Christian and celebrating that “He is Risen!” is so much more than punching your ticket to eternity. That is step one. I took that step when I was prepubescent. The point is – what am I doing with the rest of my life? How am I supposed to live here and now?
Jesus made it clear how we are meant to live our lives – in a way that brings the Kingdom of God down to earth. We puny little humans are tasked with being God’s hands and feet on earth – the actual presence of God at work in all our lives. It is up to us to make this world a better place. To spread love, joy, and peace to ALL.
One of Jesus’ well known stories was that of the Good Samaritan. In it, a man is beaten by the road side, robbed, and left for dead,. We don’t know by whom. A priest walked by, noticed the man, and did nothing. A Levite (an even more elite religious person) likeways ignored him. But then the good Samaritan man (part of a despised and discriminated against race that the Jews looked down on at the time) took heart and helped the man with his own money, care, and attention.
I think most of us are not the Samaritan. The Good Samaritan would stop to help the black man getting killed by the police at the side of the road, the homeless person on the corner begging for food. The Good Samaritan would be fighting to protect LGBTQ rights, taking in gay kids who got kicked out of their Christian home. The Good Samaritan would fight for women’s rights, and stopping anti-Asian violence, and assisting children at the border, and helping the poor immigrant fleeing violence and searching for a better life. The Good Samaritan would be comforting the suicidal girl who was born looking like a boy, distraught because no one believes her when she says who she is, distraught for having the Image of God within her stamped out by others.
Our faith is meant to have arms and legs. As the Bible says, “faith without works is dead.” Now I don’t take that to be a legalistic order dictating a certain number of prayers, donations, or good deeds in order to achieve salvation. Because, “it is by grace you have been saved through faith…it is the gift of God.” Gifts are free and undeserved; they are given because the giver loves the receiver.
So it’s not that we need to do certain good deeds to earn a pleasant eternity; again – being saved is the first teeny tiny baby step in the life of a person of faith. What are you doing with it? Why does it matter that Jesus conquered death? Receiving that amazing free gift is meant to spur us to action.
And our current, every day world is still very bent and broken, a far cry from the Kingdom of God. Every human being is created in the image of God. The black person, whose life is still held back by systemic racism and a long history of oppression. The factory worker making cheap clothes for us to buy while getting treated like dirt. The desperate father, afraid because his profession is dying and he has no where to turn, no safety net to catch him, while living in the “greatest country on earth.” The immigrant who is afraid for their life and their children’s future and is seeking stability. The gay kid who was simply born loving people of the same gender.
Are we loving them? Are we protecting the Image of God in them? Are we fighting for equality and fairness, fighting against discrimination and hatred? Or the more insidious acceptance of the status quo? Are we fighting against the urge to say it’s too broken, and it’s always been this way, and it’s too much to change? Are we willing to pay a bigger share to ensure everyone gets what they need? Are we willing to sacrifice and stay humble and have faith that there is enough for all of us?
As Jesus said, ” whoever believes in me will do…even greater things than these.” Jesus reached out to the culturally oppressed and discriminated. He mingled with the low lifes, the rejects, the illegal aliens and sex workers, the corrupt politicians and ethnic minorities. He treated women with far more respect and honor than was customary for his time. He healed the untouchable sick.
We will do ever greater things. We ended legalized slavery. We ended counting our fellow countrymen as 3/5ths a person. We ended unsafe working conditions and child labor (in the US at least). We will end workplace discrimination. We will end systemic racism and the many lingering, hidden ways it persists – the prison labor force, unequal school funding that cuts kids off from a remotely equal chance in life, the food deserts and healthcare disparities. We will end misogeny and transphobia. We will end the rule of the power-hungry, vain, and proud. We will save the planet from massive loss of life due to climate change.
Because in the Kingdom of God, the last will be first, righteousness (morally correct behavior) reigns, the merciful, peaceful and pure in heart will be blessed. Not the richest, the politically powerful, the elite class, the superPACs and Fortune 500 CEOs. Not the vainly privileged, unwilling to look down on the lowly humans they’ve used and stepped on to get to the top. Not the naively privileged, ignorant to how their way of life is only possible because of the suffering of others.
This is a big task we’ve been given. Punching your ticket to Heaven is only the beginning. But take heart. It’s not up to each and every one of us to tackle all these massive issues. We all have our passions, the issues that get under our skin and keep us awake at night. Maybe it’s hurting kids, or LGTBQ rights, prison reform, compassionate immigration, environmental causes, anti-racism, sex trafficking, political corruption, voting rights, women’s rights, the mentally ill, homelessness – there are many things to care about. Many things that God cares about. And God is counting on us to be the hands and feet of the Kingdom.
Remember what Jesus said in the story of the sheep and the goats:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Are you the Good Samaritan? Or the pious priest, walking right on by, without caring about your fellow human – no matter how different they look, or how sinful you believe them to be – laying there beaten and left for dead? How are you using your one and precious life?