“The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever” – “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, Martin Luther
As a Christian, this past weekend has been joyful and sorrowful, yet altogether an example of what it means to be one in this faith.
It’s joyful because the faith was and is celebrated by so many.
In case you don’t know the story, Easter Sunday is the remembrance that Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to save the faithful. Those who have been called by the Holy Spirit and baptized into faith will be saved because of the new creation made by this sacrifice.
Yes, this is the Cliff’s Notes version, albeit a little longer than John 3:16.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
“He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!” is the refrain proclaimed throughout all Christianity this Easter season and always.
Yet, it is sorrowful because once again the specter of political hatred and the depravity of the devil manifested itself in Sri Lanka.
More than 300 people, simply celebrating their faith, enjoying a vacation, or preparing for business were killed in bombings at churches and hotels Easter morning.
If you’re a Christian, or an astute political observer, this recent act of violence should be absolutely no surprise.
Jesus is, and always will be, in addition to the Savior of the world, a political figure, where His execution was political.
The story of Christ begins with a political census mandated by the Roman imperial governance for the express purpose of determining how much to collect in taxes.
When Christ was born, political leaders – kings – from Asia follow a star in the sky that is a symbol of one who will lead the world and, more specifically, the Jewish people.
Fearing the loss of his personal kingdom, Herod the Great, an Assyrian, installed by the Romans to govern the Jewish people in Judea, ordered the execution of all newborn males 0-2 years old in Bethlehem.
John the Baptist, who was the proclaimer of Christ, accused Herod Agrippa (Herod the Great’s son and successor) of adultery by marrying his brother’s wife, Herodias. For this, he lost his head as the scandal was stirring up political turmoil.
Succeeding The Baptist, Christ began his ministry and it was clear that the Romans were getting close to a military clamp down on the province. To mitigate any potential massive carnage (which still eventually came), Jewish leaders proclaimed “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
Finally, Pontius Pilate states to Jesus prior to the execution, “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
As it becomes clearer that the Sri Lankan bombings were religiously motivated – or, at least, that’s what ISIS would have us believe – it becomes increasingly important for Christians to remember these words from Jesus, again from the Gospel of John:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…Whoever hates me hates my Father as well.”
Christ is not talking about ISIS. He’s talking about evil. He’s talking about death. He’s talking about sin.
And for Christians, what really galls ISIS, al Qaeda, white nationalists, the Nazis, Stalinists, and all sorts of individuals who would inflict evil, is that their efforts are totally in vain.
For those who believe, Christ has already conquered death and the new Jerusalem is to come.
“I came inside the church and I saw people screaming, crying and I started, with the help of the community, and staff and priest, to send each and every one to the hospital,” said Fr. Jude Fernando of St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo as reported on CNN.
“Be calm and quiet and pray, because our God is not a god of revenge, he’s a god of love, he’s a god of peace… let’s follow our master and spread the good news.
“Continue to pray for one another, and don’t do any harmful acts,” he said.
Honestly, for those of us who are Christians, you can really do nothing to us. We have an example that has already been set for us and the victory is already won.