Easter is Over ... Now What?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

If you've been here in the last several days, you may have noticed that this post has changed several times. I published it, then took it down. Then I edited and reposted. I edited a little more. And then yesterday I just took it down. To say that I'm wrestling with this post is a huge understatement. But all in all, I do think its something I want to talk about. I want to hear what you think and why. I want us to be honest because that's where we begin to heal, right? And I want you to know that this post, Jesus is at the center. He is the Prince of Peace and we don't have real peace without Him.
So as you read, and as you respond, please know this is not easy for me to write. This post is written with peace in mind. Evil is real and its devastating in the way it captivates minds and hearts and does not allow you to even consider healing. But we all want to be whole, right? We all want healing?

A few months ago I read a story about a musical artist canceling a writers retreat she was leading because of the backlash on the location of the event. Here was the deal, she lives in the south and the conference was going to be at a local resort just outside of town. This particular resort was an old plantation. Turns out, many of her fans and people who originally wanted to attend the retreat were outraged. And they responded loudly. After some “discussion” (reading many of the over 5,000 comments to just the cancelation, I use that word very lightly) she canceled the event.

Her fans were unable to reconcile her political and social message with spending a weekend on a former planation where such tragedy and injustice was carried out. To those who voiced their opinions, she responded with, “for myself, I believe that one cannot draw a line around the plantation and say "racism reached its depths of wrongness here" and then point to the other side of that line and say "but not here".”  Her response was lengthy and well thought out, but she still canceled.
For me the more I read the more confused I got.  It's bothered me deeply and I've spent the last several months wrestling with why. Several words came to mind. Grace. Mercy.  Redemption. Reconciliation. Thank God for the Cross.

So lately I’ve been reading through the book of Acts. I love this book. I love watching the church be born and all the characters God uses to build His church come together. It’s an amazing time. But for today, I want to talk about just two. Paul and Barnabas. In Acts 13 we find a group of men gathered to worship and pray. (an extremely diverse group of people) This is where the Holy Spirit calls out Paul and Barnabas to serve and preach together. It doesn’t sound strange until you know their history.
Barnabas: He is first introduced in Acts 4:36, “Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.” Barnabas was part of the church in Jerusalem. He wasn’t just part, but he was full on, submitting to the authority of God, sell your stuff because someone needs something, part of the church. He was a man known for encouragement. And let’s face it, at that time in Jerusalem, the church needed some encouragement.

So also hanging out in Jerusalem at the same time was Paul, but we first meet him as Saul. Just after the murder of Stephen, a messenger of the gospel,  in Acts 8:1-5, “And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”
That was Saul before his conversion. He was a Jewish leader out to kill the spread of the message of Jesus. The bible says he literally entered house after house and dragged men and women out. Many believers were tortured, imprisoned and killed.

Let’s think about this for just a moment, the church is pretty small at this point. If Saul and Barnabas were in the same city and Saul is persecuting Christians, it’s not a big leap to say that Saul and Barnabas could have run into each other. I mean if not face to face, Saul most likely entered the homes of people Barnabas knew: his friends, his family, the ones he’s sold property for. Saul is not a friend of the church. These two men could not have been more different, Barnabas giving his life to build up the church and Saul doing all he can to destroy it. So how did these two men end up worshiping and working together to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ?

That, my friend, is the power of the redemptive work on the Cross. Jesus died there and was buried and three days later He rose from the dead. Because the gospel reconciles people who you would think there's no way they could ever be reconciled.

You’ve seen it. If you’ve been a believer for any amount of time, you’ve see it in your friends. You’ve heard testimonies of addicts who are no longer addicts. You’ve seen angry teenagers turn their lives around. You’ve seen marriages on the brink grow strong. On and on you could add to this list, and it could only get worse from here. These people, these testimonies,  yours and mine, we didn’t do anything but submit to Jesus. He did all the work because we couldn't. It's only in Him that we find the strength to overcome our past.

I'm just a girl saved by grace. I'm a white middle class girl living in the suburbs. Maybe that's you too, maybe it's not.  I can't help where and who and how or what color I was born. I just was. I was born into the family God chose for me and so where you. It's not a mistake not matter the circumstances surrounding your birth. So what right do I have to talk about any of this? Maybe that's the point.

Romans 3:21-26 "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—  the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." Maybe that's what, Romans 8:28 means when it says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

We are all are born into sin and fall short of doing anything to fix it ourselves, no matter who or where or how you came to be here. We want to talk about how to deal with history, we want to talk about our own history, we have to look at it through the filter of the gospel. We can't fix it, we don't even really know how we feel about it. Again, maybe that's the point. Maybe it's God using all this mess to point us to Jesus. He wants to bring out minds back to the one who can reconcile and redeem it. Psalm 147:3 "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

So, let me say this. If you look at this post and only see a discussion about race, you've missed my point because I didn't write it out well enough. Like I said at the beginning, Jesus is the point. Everything else just becomes a distraction. But, in all fairness, there are some subjects that are just loud. They blind and distract from real truth. So if you want to continue in a talk about racism, will you please first go listen to this amazing message, Racial Reconciliation by Matt Chandler. And then let's talk honestly and openly with healing in mind.

Easter is over, … now what?  Romans 5:1-5 "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

The Cross: It makes enemies friends. It makes standing on a piece of ground where epic injustice was carried out, a place where we can worship Jesus ... together.

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