Once, a boy was standing in front of his father’s new car. The idea of slipping into the car and driving it was tentalising. In no time he got into the driver’s seat and was marvelling at the steering wheel, switches, pedals, levers. A few seconds later he found himself moving off but suddenly bumping into a parked car. The father, who was in a nearby shop came running out and was furious! He started hitting the boy like crazy. His wife could not help seeing her son being beaten up like that and tried to shield the boy. By the time the man had exhausted all his anger, she was badly bruised and aching all over but at least her son was spared.
During this time of the year we hear this message over and over again. This is what Easter means for many Christians: humanity sinned and God had to do justice by punishing someone… luckily for us it was his son who bore his outrage and we have been spared!
I cannot express enough how disagreeable I find this message to be! This is so wrong! Apart from portraying a tyrant image of God, this idea says a lot about our idea of justice. For many of us justice means suffering for the wrong one does. No wonder I meet so many people who are guilt stricken, who feel they do not deserve to enjoy life. Unsurprisingly, our justice system is also still heavily based on this idea of punishment with little emphasis on reformation despite the “correctional” in the name of our prison.
While I used to be offended over and over again with phrases like “… my blood which will be poured out […] for the forgiveness of sins”, I tried hard to make sense of it all. As a believer, the sense I found in Easter was that God was suffering with(in) us; the incarnate God never shunned suffering. I used to find this idea of a God full of solidarity very comforting for this life where suffering and pain abound. More profoundly, this gives a new dimension to suffering – a somewhat divine nature.
Today Easter has another meaning for me: it is a sign of hope for humanity. The fact that people are still celebrating the life of a simple, powerless man from an insignificant village after two millennia is incredible. OK, millions of celebrators might not know what they are celebrating, but surely, some do appreciate the beauty of this man who was brutally killed because he said things as they were, because he did not conform to the status quo, because he was kind to all kinds of people. The belief that so many people are celebrating these values fills me with hope. Yet, even if nobody is actually celebrating these qualities, the fact that there was once a man with all this beauty is enough reason to celebrate!
My hope is that this beauty outshines the ugly throughout the whole world – even within myself. Although there is a lot of ugly around us, people like Jesus, Gandhi, and many others who are still fighting for truth and freedom to this day, keep my hopes high. I will sum up with a quote by Etty Hillesum who never lost hope despite living in a very ugly Nazi concentration camp:
“It is sometimes hard to take in and comprehend, oh God, what those created in Your likeness do to each other in these disjointed days. But I no longer shut myself away in my room, God; I try to look things straight in the face, even the worst crimes, and to discover the small, naked human being amid the monstrous wreckage caused by man’s senseless deeds. […] I try to face up to your world, God, not to escape from reality into beautiful dreams – though I believe that beautiful dreams can exist beside the most horrible reality – and I continue to praise your creation, God, despite everything.”