Friday, March 21, 2008
"Losing that job was the best thing that ever happened to me." "I'm not glad I got cancer, but it sure made me more appreciative of life in general." "It seemed like such a bad thing at the time, but in retrospect I'm glad it happened."
That's how we are brought up (as Christians) to believe in "Good" Friday. It was a horrible thing at the time, but the fact that it happened was good for us.
We recite a number of articles of faith in our religion... that Jesus was the son of God, the only one, born under peculiar and holy circumstances, that he suffered, died and was buried... that he rose from the dead and sits beside God, that he will come back... to judge whoever's left and those already dead.
But we go on to elaborate on these articles, (which were never part of what the disciples believed to begin with,) and we add more intent and presume a righteous understanding of who Jesus was, what he knew, and why he had to die for our salvation. We also presume that God wanted him dead for God's own purposes... whatever they might be.
Because of this righteous understanding of who God is and what God wants and how God works, we go on to draw conclusions that may or may not be true in the long haul. One in particular is that the New Covenant of Christ supersedes the Old Covenant that God made with Abraham, and later, Moses. If time is not linear to God then this cannot be possible. Christ made a new covenant with his disciples on the night before he died. He made it in the context of the Passover meal, in the context of the established covenant.
Jesus also shortened the ten commandments on two occasions: the first when he said, in answer to a question, "Love God, and love your neighbor." Ten distilled down to two. When he spoke to his disciples that night, he made it even simpler: "Love one another as I have loved you." Simpler maybe, but certainly not easier.
"Love one another as I have loved you." cannot possibly equate to kill the infidel, annihilate the heretics, burn, pillage and destroy. It cannot equate to judging people as believers vs. nonbelievers, Christians vs. Jews, Jews vs. Muslims, Catholic vs. Protestant, East vs. West, Democrat vs. Republican. (You get the picture.)
My guess is we have no idea what happened on that first Good Friday, nor why. We have background, a few "facts" as recorded by early historians. We have the stories told by his followers, and they will always contain some grain of the truth. Probably more important, we have the example of his disciples who afterwards, were willing to die the same awful deaths their Lord had died. They understood the new commandment.
I'm not sure we do in this generation.