God has a problem.
God made this amazing creation. He made suns, moons, planets—galaxies full of whirling dust and light. And in one of those galaxies he made this remarkable planet, this lush place full of water and rich soil and plants that nourish and shade. He made animals of every color and station, invisible amoebas and awe inspiring whales. And then he made people.
People are God’s problem. God made people to love them. And he does love them. God loves people so much he allows them to be free in a way animals and plants are not. But the trouble is, in that freedom, people turn out to be a real mix of wonderful and terrible. We discover fire. We create art. We create ideas. We are the architect of St. Peter’s bacilica and the Declaration of Independence. We learn to clothe ourselves and provide for our families and love our children the best we can. But we also lie, cheat, steal. We find old girlfriends on Facebook and betray our families. We hoard money instead of caring for the poor. We invent and use guns that can murder two dozen children in five minutes. We too often turn our back on God, and our neighbor. God wants to be in relationship with us, but we reject him.
So God tries everything. He tries wiping us off the face of the earth with a giant flood and starting over again with Noah’s family. But people are still wonderful and terrible. So, God tries choosing one family, Abraham’s family, and makes a covenant with them. But even that special family is still wonderful and terrible. So, God sends a list of rules to Moses so we’ll at least know when we are being terrible. But after we finish oohing and ahhing over the shiny tablets Moses brings down from the mountain, we just go back to being rude to our parents, coveting our neighbor’s cattle, and murdering those who become inconvenient to us. God tries Judges to rule us. No dice. He tries kings. The kings end up totally abusing their power and taking advantage of God’s people. So God tries sending prophets. These prophets really let us have it. They yell at us to start worshiping God properly and treating other people with care and respect. They don’t hold back one bit. Some of us listen to them, but mostly we just feel kind of bad for the prophets since they smell funny and don’t have a lot of friends. We continue to be wonderful and terrible.
Now, if we were out for a drink with God and heard him tell this story, we might pat God’s hand and say, “Oh my GOODNESS, break up with them already! They are never going to change. Go get some therapy and find a hobby or something. They are just not that into you!”
Thankfully, God is not interested in our advice. God is relentless and creative. God made us and loves us and is going to be in relationship with us even if we are congenitally unable to be faithful to how God wants us to live.
God sends us his Son. The God of the Universe, who made all those stars and suns and moons willingly takes on muscle and bone and flesh. He becomes one of us, except he is able to live in a way God intended. He lives a life of generosity, selflessness, creativity, and love. He sees people for who they are and speaks to them honestly. He heals the broken and brings life to the dead. People start to see that obedience to God isn’t about following a bunch of rules, it is about relationship. In fact, Jesus flouts some of the rules that clergy created. He always puts people ahead of rules.
This rule breaking freaks out the powers that be. They can’t stand losing their power. They can’t stand the idea that God’s authority could rest with someone other than themselves. And so, Jesus dies.
This might be the end of the story. This would make sense. In a world filled with the abuse of children and corruption of governments and hopeless poverty, a dead God seems like the only explanation.
But we know, of course, that Jesus’ death is not the end of the story. Because God is relentless. Because God loves us. Because God won’t give up on us, even when we murder him.
God defies the very rules of the Universe that he created and breathes life back into Jesus’ body. In so doing, he changes everything about our lives, too. No longer are people sentenced to alienation and death for their terribleness. Now, humans are judged through the lens of Jesus. God can relate to us, because Jesus stands between and intercedes for us. God can be in relationship with us, even if we aren’t perfect. And we still aren’t. We are still wonderful and terrible. But we are forgiven.
We are forgiven not because of anything we’ve done. We are forgiven because our God would not stop until we could be together. Our God loves us more than is reasonable, more than we can comprehend.
This forgiveness is not just a blank check. As God forgives us, he draws us closer to himself and starts to form us into the people he intended us to be. The more we realize our brokenness, and ask for forgiveness, and get forgiven, and get drawn closer to God, the more we live lives of honesty and grace and love. We realize the greed and lust and corruption are all about fear—fear of not having enough, fear of not being good enough, fear of not being loved.
When we start to believe God’s love for us, we experience our own resurrection. Finally, all those fears that have ruled our hearts are put to death, and hope and joy are borne from their ashes.
We rise from those ashes and say, Alleluia, Christ is Risen!