What can we expect to learn from Jesus about communicating in a modern world, when he didn’t have to compete for the attention of people immersed in emails, podcasts, text messages, Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, and emerging virtual reality technologies? Can growing our skills of attentiveness help us connect with people who give their attention to these powerful technologies?
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! For centuries, Christians have greeted each other on Easter Sunday with these triumphant words. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus not only because one we love has conquered death, but also because we share in his victory. Because Christ is risen, sin and death have been defeated. Because Christ is risen, we are saved. To use the language of 2 Corinthians 6:2, “now is the day of salvation.”
I teeter through life as if on the edge of a windowsill, my progress often slow, my thoughts occasionally sluggish. I sometimes follow the crowd and end up where I shouldn’t be. I try very hard to be a pleasing aroma in the world, but sometimes, if I feel threatened, I may lash out or overreact, leaving a less than desirable impression on others. Despite all of this, Christ has given to me and to you, the promise of resurrection.
Today, we pause to reflect on the meaning of the cross. We open our hearts to receive once again God’s amazing grace and love for us. We acknowledge that this day is good, not because of the horrible thing that happened to Jesus Christ, but because of what God was doing through the cross for us. All praise be to him!
As we break down walls that divide people from people, as we forgive those who have wronged us, as we seek God’s justice for all people, as we extend the love of Christ to others, loving not only those who are different from us but even our enemies, people’s hearts will be opened to hear the good news of what God has done in Christ. We will say, “Be reconciled to God, and this is what reconciliation looks like. Come and see!”
You see, it’s not just that the individual is a new creation, though this is part of the truth. When we receive God’s grace through faith in Christ, we begin to live in the new creation that is yet to come. We begin to experience that which we will know fully in the future: forgiveness, restoration, healing, freedom, justice, and peace. Yes, our experience of the new creation is incomplete in this life. But it is real. And it is wonderful.
Because of sin’s influence on our hearts, we find it natural to live for ourselves. Plus, so much in our secular culture affirms this approach to living. But there is another way: the way of Christ, the way of the cross. Even as he gave his life for us through his death, so we are invited to give our lives for him, not by dying literally, but by dying to ourselves and living for Christ, for his purposes and glory.
Paul is saying that the love of Christ is not just something he receives with gratitude or admires with awe. It is also something that grabs hold of him and moves him forward. It presses him on. It urges him to act in a certain way. For Paul, the love that Christ has for him and for all people is the fundamental motivation of his entire life and work. You and I may not be apostles, but we can also be compelled by Christ’s love for us and for others.
The Christmas story we know from popular culture can be so sanitized that perhaps the ideas of sickness, isolation, and hopelessness sound foreign to you—perhaps even sacrilegious for the Advent season. But Jesus chose to be born into a broken world and to take on our pain in order to make us whole. Leaders who come near to the pain of those they lead will find they are emulating Jesus.
When I was disciplined as a child, that discipline never served to separate me from my family or to change the status of my relationship to them. When my timeout had been completed, or when my grounding was finally over, I was welcomed back into my family with open arms, the punishment and its inciting incident behind us all, and the lessons learned weaving their way into the fabric of my world view for years to come.