I’ve noticed something during this political season. It’s something that I’ve noticed before but it’s stood out again for me. (Don’t worry, this won’t be an article about politics). What I’ve noticed has to do with the way people running for political office tend to talk about change. Every candidate promises to make things different, or to do things differently than anyone else that they’re running against. When it comes to political promises there is not lack of ways that any given candidate is going to change the world for the American people. What is much rarer, however, is the idea that the American people themselves need to change.
While it’s true that any given person in a position of national power does have some influence on the quality of our lives and our world, when it comes to really big issues like racism, climate change, or even income inequality, what arguable has a much bigger impact is when the entire culture shifts its attitudes and its practices. And yet, the promises made by politicians tend to be that they will change things for us, rather than calling for all of us to change.
The reason for this should be somewhat obvious: we don’t generally like change. Change is hard. It’s difficult. It takes work. It takes learning new things. It takes admitting that we were wrong. As the cartoon included in this article points out; we really want change, but we don’t want to change ourselves.
In the church year we are in the middle of Lent. This is the season where we are looking towards the celebration of Easter. Easter, of course, centers on the celebration of Jesus coming back to life three days after being killed on a cross. The resurrection of Jesus is the central event within the Christian faith. It’s the event that brings salvation to the world.
But what I find interesting within our celebration of Easter, and our beliefs about the resurrection is that often we seem to treat Jesus as we treat our politicians. There is a tendency to look to Jesus to do the work of resurrection for us. We’re happy that Jesus has done the work, but quite frankly, we don’t really want to have to do it ourselves. And again, the reason why we see Jesus this way is fairly obvious. We might like the change of the resurrection, but the resurrection doesn’t come without the death first, and death is hard. To have a resurrection means giving up our lives in very real kinds of ways, and we’re happy to celebrate Jesus doing that for us….just as long as we don’t have to do it ourselves.
The problem is that that’s not really how it’s supposed to work. In the letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul is talking about how Jesus’ death and resurrection have freed us from the old law and have allowed us access to the grace of God. It’s the idea that through His death and resurrection Jesus has in fact done something for us. But then Paul continues on.
Romans 6:1-4: “What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father , so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Paul is saying that on one hand, yes, Jesus has done something for us through His death and resurrection, something that has brought us a new found freedom. But he is also saying that the way we can take hold of that new freedom is not by simply saying, “thanks, Jesus!” but rather it is by walking the same path He did and going through our own death and resurrection. The death and resurrection is not just something that was done on our behalf, but rather it is something that we are called to emulate.
As we continue to look towards Easter during this season of Lent, let us be thankful for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and let us celebrate his overcoming of that death in the resurrection. But at the same time, let us also remember that we are called to continually go through our own death and resurrection along with Christ. Remember that we are called to continually submit our lives to the will of God. And while that submission like a death of sorts, let us also remember that what awaits us on the other side is a new and better life given to us by the Spirit of God.
Each month for our newsletter Pastor Alan writes a short article on a variety of topics. At times he will also create a video version of the article.