Friday, March 29, 2013

Darkness and Light

darkness and light wrestle with one another over the desert mountains

Today is "Good Friday" - the day on which Christians commemorate the death of Jesus on the cross. 

I must say that, for many years I had a real hard time making much sense out of what I was traditionally taught about Jesus and the cross.  Ever since I was a little boy I was told that God sent His only son Jesus to  die on the cross to take away the sins of the world. 

I never understood what that was all about. Why would a loving father send his beloved son to be slaughtered so brutally? Moreover,  how does Jesus' death take away sins? 

As I grew older and learned more I discovered that the belief about Jesus dying to take away our sins was a doctrine that was developed by the church well after the time of Jesus. Moreover I discovered that,  throughout the ages, this doctrine was a hotly debated topic. 

Anyhow, I'll leave the theological discussion to the theologians because,  over the years, I think I have finally discovered another way of understanding and embracing the cross. And I think my discovery makes the cross accessible, not only to Christians, but to every human being.

Throughout his life,  Jesus Christ was the icon of compassion. He was love in the flesh -  all embracing, all forgiving, always welcoming, every human being equally valued.  Everything Jesus taught and everything he stood for flew in the face of the empire of violence and human degradation embodied in the oppressive governance of Rome. This became a problem when ordinary everyday people started to pay attention to Jesus. 

By living a life of radical hospitality and unbounded compassion, Jesus had become a threat to the status quo of the empire, and so had to be eliminated. 

As I see it, that cross on that first Good Friday, is the sight of a great cosmic battle. The powers of light and love embodied in Jesus engage in a mighty battle with the forces of darkness, violence and oppression embodied in the culture of the day. Good Friday is a day to commemorate the battle between darkness and light. If darkness wins, we will hear no more of Jesus. The threat will have been eliminated.

Everyone knows something about wrestling with darkness and light. That struggle is part of our human condition. 

A brutal North Korean tyrant threatens to destroy nations with nuclear fire as a humble pope kneels before frightened youthful inmates in a Roman prison, washing and kissing their feet. 

In our own personal lives we all experience the constant struggle. We are torn between feeding the desires of our own selfish egos and laying down our lives for the welfare of others. Darkness and light are always wrestling with one another.

The cross that we lift up today is not just a Christian symbol. It belongs to all humanity. What a beautiful struggle we are in.

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