Social media is a peculiar place. It is a platform that proves to be a blessing when you want to stay connected to new and old friends around the world. It is also a tragic place full of judgement and harsh words that cowardly people are empowered to use because a computer screen is separating them from the real people that their words are wounding.
Christians aren’t exempt from this new-age debacle. I would imagine you, like me, have seen ugly words from ‘christians’ on your social media screens who have mixed their spiritual life with an extreme form of politics and proudly boasted their support of men and women who represent much that is opposed to the way of Jesus. Likewise, many without a Christian world-view who would still say they are proponents of peace have found their way into my newsfeed attacking anyone with world-views that they don’t understand.
I’ve found that the cure for this WIDE gap of misunderstanding is proximity.
Last night, twenty or so college students filled my house for dinner and I would imagine many of them see the world through a different lens than I do. I would imagine we voted for different leaders and we read very different books. Some of them pray to the same God I do and some of them don’t pray at all. But proximity, being near to each other and sharing a meal, breaks down our borders. I see myself in them and they see themselves in me. While we may disagree on much, they hold my kiddos gentle in their arms and I adore them.
So this Holy Week, when millions of Christians are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus around the world, I would like to extend a virtual arm of proximity. I’ll be candid with you and you can try to love me in spite of how differently we might see the world. If you’re considering Easter this year, let me tell you about why I follow this Jesus who we believe was crucified on Friday and rose back to life on Sunday, defeating death and sin forever.
Last Sunday I didn’t want to go to church. Just being candid. I wanted to sit at home in pjs and read. But there’s something sacred about gathering around with other people on their faith journeys. So we went. And while I was sitting in worship, self absorbed in my daunting to-do list for the day, we started singing. Slowly my eyes started looking up.
I saw the couple who ministers at the jail sitting with the woman they call friend who just happens to be an ex-convict.
I saw the teen mom and teen dad snuggling their adorable one year old and singing loud songs of praise to the God who has carried them through a big journey for people so young to take.
I saw the young woman I adore who God made with different abilities than you and I and her arms raised high in praise to the Jesus she loves.
Then as a ragamuffin body of Jesus followers, we started talking to Him. A woman behind me prayed for her dying friend. Someone prayed for the hopeless and asked God to give them mercy. Men prayed for each other and the struggles they are facing. And the man who struggles with addiction and has found himself behind bars started praying for our government. He asked Jesus to be with the leaders of our state and nation. He told Jesus thank you for them. He prayed the most loving prayers over men and women who didn’t think twice about locking him up. And while he prayed, this man was sitting right next to an affluent couple who look so put together but they sat closer than acquaintances. They sat like family sits. Proximity.
If you’ve never felt broken, unable, ashamed, hopeless then I assume you aren’t considering Easter much this year.
I lived those years. But my heart was so empty by the time I was 18, I couldn’t take much more. Partying only satisfied me one night at a time. I felt broken and full of shame about my choices. I longed to be loved unconditionally but I knew that if there was a holy, perfect God, I didn’t have much in common with Him. I doubted love could be found in some heavenly being or spiritual rituals.
Jesus agreed. So He chose proximity.
God has always perfectly existed. Glory. He was happy and fulfilled lacking no good thing. But we were far from him and unable to make ourselves perfect. Our sin problem caused suffering, fear, and brokenness of every kind. Christmas tells part of the story. God chose to put on flesh like a robe and leave the glory of heaven to become a helpless baby. He chose to be near. God with us.
Easter tells us the rest of the story. Jesus lived the perfect life that no one else has ever been able to live. He never chose selfishness or pride. He never let ambition cloud his love for others. He never failed to obey God His Father even when it costs his reputation dearly. He chose poverty when he could have easily been clothed in riches. He chose mercy when He was able to stand in judgement. And while his followers tried to follow in his footsteps, failing miserably, he loved them and washed their feet.
Perfect love clothed in flesh because he knew we needed proximity. Then he chose to die as a sacrifice for our sin. Nails didn’t hold him on the cross, love did. And when he chose to die, it was to ruin the power of sin and death so we could be his children. Instead of only knowing there is a Holy God, we can be known fully and loved fully by Jesus, our Redeemer.
So this week if you are considering Easter and we were sitting around the dinner table, I would want you to know that no matter what lifestyle you lead or choices you make, you are loved. I know a God who is so busy being crazy about you, He doesn’t have any time to dislike you. Any rebellion you’ve chosen doesn’t phase Him a bit. Before you were born, He took care of it.
And this Holy Week, if you would like to know more about this Jesus, friend of sinners, you can talk to Him. He is alive and listening. Always near. Proximity matters to Him.