Friday, April 2, 2010

Reflecting on Good Friday

I've had the movie "Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire" in its red Netflix envelope for over a week. I just wasn't ready to watch it. I can admit it. I knew that it was a great movie (lots of awards, Oscar Best Picture Nominee, etc). I knew that it could be a hard movie to watch. And I have a confession: If I really had to choose, I would not watch movies that are hard to watch or that make me cry (out of sadness) or that remind me of the brokenness of this world.

After seeing "Up in the Air" with my friend Matt, we were both kind of stunned by the ending. Matt said, "Well, I guess it was more like reality." My reply: "I have enough reality in my own life, I don't need to see it at the movies."

And that's really how I feel. My life is real enough. So is yours.

But then again, how can I really consider myself a critical thinker, a world-changer, a Christian, if I am afraid to interact and engage with real issues?

So I psyched myself up for it. I read Myles Werntz's very excellent and thoughtful review, I went shopping (for Hot Cross Bun ingredients), and I decided that this was a perfect movie to watch on Good Friday.

While my little apartment filled up with the smell of Hot Cross Buns, I watched it. I didn't cry as much as I had expected but I was totally as broken-hearted as I had expected. Here's what I remembered as I watched almost 2 hours of painful reality: this world and the people in it are broken.

No, not the most profound insight, but on Good Friday, the day that Christians worldwide acknowledge the painful and horrifying death of Jesus Christ, this brokenness was especially important for me to remember.

I remembered that this world will continue to be broken - increasingly broken in fact - until whenever Jesus returns to redeem the earth. And that in the meantime, the best example of love and truth and wholeness that exists is in the total insanity of an innocent man being killed on a wooden stake 2000 years ago - or rather in the fact that this man did so willingly (though not easily), and who, even while the last breaths bubbled out of his mouth, asked God to forgive his killers and haters and deserters.

I remembered that our only hope for wholeness and healing in this lifetime is to believe that it is possible that this same man who died also rose to life again - proving that what he had been saying all along was true - that He was God.

I remembered that no one would even know about this man if people didn't tell his story, and that I need to be a part of that storytelling legacy. I remembered that I encounter men and women who are broken every day, perhaps their lives have not been like that of Precious - in my mind I can hardly imagine a life worse than that character's though I know they exist, and who is to judge the magnitude of an individual's pain anyway - but nonetheless, they have pain and brokenness and I can tell them the story of Help.

Finally, I am increasingly reminded that although the message of repentance from sin is important (crucial, even), "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8) I am reminded that evangelism is less about reforming errant sinners than it is telling people the good news of Jesus (that is what evangelism is after all - telling of the good news) and that discipleship (or what comes after one has received Jesus) is the part about reformation and repentance. I don't deny that a person needs to know her brokenness and sin in order to know she needs Jesus's help and redemption - but isn't what she needs to know first is that God loves her despite that?

Didn't Precious really just want to know that someone loved her as she was, perfectly as she was - and not in a flawed way that said love to her face and then raped and abused her, but loved her in a way that lived up to the things we believe about love deep in our hearts? (the answer to that question is "duh, of course, yes.")

And so as Good Friday comes to a close here on the West Coast, I am grateful that somewhere along the line, about 16 years ago, some friends (Julie, Anne, Barb, Chalea and others) lived their lives so that I could see that Jesus loved me just as I was. More importantly, I'm grateful that two millenia (or so) ago, Jesus died on the cross for me.

"Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow."

Happy Easter everyone.