Friday, April 02, 2010

What's So Good About It?

There is no greater holiday for me than Easter. I love celebrating that Jesus rose from the grave and conquered sin. But tonight as we go to our Good Friday Service, I have this odd desire to celebrate his suffering and death. Why would I celebrate such a thing? There's no colorful eggs or fluffy bunnies. What's so good about Good Friday?

We don't like suffering. It's bad. It hurts. I never even saw the movie The Passion of the Christ because I just don't want to go there. But there is a reason and purpose behind suffering. Jesus' suffering provided forgiveness and salvation. Our sins are washed away. Gone.

"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation -"
Colossians 1:21-22
What about my suffering? As I come to terms with the depth and magnitude of sin in my life, it hurts to think about the suffering Jesus went through because of me. He knew all the evil that would come out of my heart and died with that in sight. It was a long, grueling and humiliating process. When I am faced with the reality of my sin, His sacrifice is even a bigger cause for celebration.

My suffering has a purpose too. It helps me identify with Christ. It produces perseverance and maturity. As I look back at the last few months of my life I can honestly say that I'm thankful. I'm thankful for God's correction. Through hard times He has shown me things I otherwise would not know. Maybe there is good in suffering. That might be the "good" in Good Friday.

Jesus willingly went to the cross because he knew I would hate, be jealous, gossip, lie, and cheat. He knows all those things about me and still willingly died to set me free. For a lot of years I wanted to pretend like I didn't sin. I didn't really do anything that bad. Come on, I'm a church girl.

Pretending to be good only soiled Jesus' amazing sacrifice. If I'm pretty good, then His suffering is worth nothing. And that is wrong. So I'm looking forward to celebrating this night. Remembering what He did for me. Through my sin, He is glorified because of his perfection. He is magnified through my shortfalls. He is alive through God's power. And He's waiting for me with open arms.

O sacred Head, now wounded,
with grief and shame weighed down,
now scornfully surrounded
with thorns, thine only crown:
how pale thou art with anguish,
with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish
which once was bright as morn!

What thou, my Lord, has suffered
was all for sinners' gain;
mine, mine was the transgression,
but thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
'Tis I deserve thy place;
look on me with thy favor,
vouchsafe to me thy grace.

What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?
O make me thine forever;
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never
outlive my love for thee.

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool"
Isaiah 1:18

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In a Tough Spot

After Mike and I had been dating for a while and there was talk of rings, I went to Wyoming to meet his family. We stopped at his sister's house and met his nieces and nephew. I didn't have any yet so they are pretty special to me.

I have some great memories of Jacque. She is a girl that is full of life and spunk. I remember her walking around looking for worms in her underwear and cowboy boots while we were camping. A few years later at a family wedding, we were getting into their van and she was all dressed up in her homemade cowgirl shirt. Her little voice came from the back of the van, "Turn on the country music Mom!".

I love those kids even though I don't see them very often. Jacque is 17 now. And I did ask her permission to write about her. I'm not sure she'll appreciate the underwear story though! Last spring she got pregnant. I honestly struggled with how to respond. My kids are getting old enough now to understand that she isn't married. Kids see things so black and white. How do you explain that we love her and the baby and are happy she chose to have the baby but at the same time teach that it isn't God's plan? Because we do love her and baby Rylie a lot.

Having been a Christian all my life, I find it pretty easy to stand in judgment. It helps me boost my goodness by really being sad and shocked over someone else's not so good stuff. Or I can just shake my head and do a "that's so sad, tsk, tsk, tsk". Church people are good at hiding their sins or doing things that won't be found out. I totally include myself in that category.

But I don't think that's the way Jesus would respond. Certainly sin is serious business. God cannot look at sin. There is a place for rebuke and judgment. But once someone has repented, there is only a place for forgiveness, grace and compassion. And may I boldly say that even without repentance, there is always a place for grace. Because He knows we are all sinners.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:23-24

In John 8 there is a great example of Jesus' compassion. He is brought a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. The pharisees were ready to stone her. The wanted to trap Jesus with the Old Testament law. They figured he was going to look bad either way.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up, and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

"No one, sir", she said.

"Then neither do I condemn you", Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."
John 8:6-11
There are plenty of stories of Jesus reaching out and loving those the "church" would not. Zaccheus, the cheating tax collector in Luke 19 and the Samaritan woman in John 4 just to name a few. That's why he came. That's why he died.

In my grown up life as I've gone through tough times, I am realizing that what people in a tough spot need is not judgment, punishment or the cold shoulder. What they need is compassion. Compassion goes a step beyond love. Compassion is the deep awareness of someone's suffering with the desire to alleviate it.

They need people to reach out and support them. I have had friends come along side me not to take away the pain and suffering, but to hurt, suffer and listen. People who are hurting need Christians to be Jesus to them. I hope Jacque felt the love and support that we had in our hearts for her. But I wish I would have done more. It would be better to err on the side of obnoxious support than silent neglect.

Looking back I realize there are a lot of times I have missed the boat. I have friends that have been through divorce and are single parenting, the loss of a child, long term separation from their children and I haven't reached out. It's awkward. I'm busy. I've offered services instead of support. I've tried to do things, instead of just be there.

There's nothing you need more when you are in a tough spot than compassion. And there's no one better to give it than me. I don't want my kids to miss the message of grace and compassion. Compassion that not only makes them feel for others, but moves them to act on it.