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Excruciating Injustice

Today marks the day that Christians acknowledge that Jesus Christ rose from the dead in victory, securing a clear path for all people to have a direct relationship with God, unhampered by the weight of sin or the sting of death.

Having spent my entire life attending church and pursuing–to varying degrees–a real relationship with God, the Easter message is not a new one for me. However, I found myself this year with a slightly different angle to my reflections.

Jesus’ physical sufferings were tremendous. My first reaction to the gruesome depiction put forth in the 2004 film The Passion of the Christ was, “Okay! Enough already!”

The pain, the beatings, the torture that He endured–these are overwhelming, and so very tangible that it is easy for us to grab a hold of this aspect of Christ’s passion experience.

But what of the emotional and relational suffering that He endured? What of the injustice, unfairness, and betrayal?

A close companion of 3 years sells Him out for a bag of money; an even closer companion disavows that he even knows Him. One “trial” after another before various secular and religious authorities presents nothing but a mockery of court, from outright lying witnesses to schemes to put forth trumped-up charges. A Roman governor and a high priest, both who would rather sacrifice the life of one man than cause disruption and rioting among an entire nation.

He was mocked by soldiers, challenged by onlookers…even self-professed criminals tried to wound His pride and question His veracity.

And He took it all. And then He was beaten, bloodied, and shamed some more.

I don’t have an overwhelming sense of justice, but there are times when I will not let myself be treated unfairly. Ask me sometime about the $25 parking ticket that I spent $11 and 3 trips to the police department to get overturned. In was unfair, and I was determined to make it right for me.

And that was just one instance. In the course of less than 24 hours, Jesus encountered a myriad of injustices against Him, personally. Not an anonymous parking ticket, but insults, abandonment, false testimony, and courtroom travesties piled one on top of the other, aimed directly at His heart.

And He didn’t fight back against any of it. Not once did He insist on fair treatment. Not once did He scream out, “Okay! Enough already!” and then proceed to call down 10,000 angels to punish His antagonists and set all things right.

No, along with His excruciating pain, He absorbed excruciating injustice.

When we consider our sin, our wrongdoings, our affronts to God, it is easy enough for us to admit that we deserve punishment–some sort of physical chastisement for living as law-breakers. But how often do we truly consider the relational damage done by our rebellion, our going our own way? How often do we consider the brokenness that we have birthed in our dialogue with God by living in our fallen state?

Jesus’ passion–His suffering–is not just a physical picture of what we deserve, but He also presents to us a horrifying example of the relational and emotional destruction that we have caused, the unfair way that we have responded to God, the lies and the abandonment and the selling-out that we have ourselves engaged in. And we get a glimpse of God enduring all of that…and yet, still coming to rescue us. In the midst of the excruciating injustice that we heaped upon Him, He walked the walk to the cross, bled and suffocated, and then kicked open the boulder that stood at the entrance to His tomb when He arose again to life in the fullness of His power! He endured, He exerted Himself, on our behalf–we who have lied, disavowed, gone with the crowd, and turned away.

While Holy Week is nearly over, Good Friday 2013 has passed, and sunset will soon come to Easter day, it’s never too late to contemplate the breadth and the depth of Jesus’ sufferings.

Thorns. Spears. Whips. Yes.

Shame. Accusations. Unfairness. Injustice. Even more so.

 

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2013 in Theology

 

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Powerful

I owe you a thought from the movie Akeelah and the Bee. I mentioned last week that I watched this film, and it made a surprising impact on me.

The movie is somewhat framed by the following thought:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

I am continually in a process of understanding myself, of growth, development, becoming who I am intended to be. And it’s a struggle. I have big questions about who I am, what I am becoming. I wrestle with what I haven’t done, what I’m not likely to be.

Having spent a decent amount of time watching the recent Olympic games (and even attending one of the events), it is easy for me to look at the athletes–some of whom are half my age–and to wonder about the achievements and focus found in my own life.

An ongoing battle, which I’ve written about recently, is uncovering the passion at the heart of who I am. I wonder if the above quote might be relevant for me. I have tried to determine what barrier prevents me from becoming all that I imagine that I can be.

I wouldn’t have picked the word fear; I have long felt that I could be tremendously proficient in any number of endeavors, so long as I choose to truly invest myself. So what has gotten in the way of this full giving of myself to a particular sphere of life, occupation, skill, or calling?

Is there an undertone of fear, an unsettledness about what exactly I would actually become? If mediocrity is the norm, I could see how magnipotence would indeed be a source of intimidation.

After reading the opening quotation from a plaque on the wall, the title character, Akeelah, is asked by her mentor what it means.

She replies, “That I’m not supposed to be afraid?”

“Afraid of what?”

She concludes: “Afraid of…me?”

Am I afraid of the unknown aspects of who I can become? Have I relegated myself to relative powerlessness simply because it is unintimidating to do so?

It’s not fear of failure; it’s fear of achievement, transformation, metamorphosis into something as yet unimaginable, and thus, uncontrollable. Something indefinably powerful, ineffably sublime.

***

Also on this topic:

Am I a Hero? (essay)

Where is My Epic? (essay)

Horizons (poem)

On the Shelf (poem)

 

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2012 in Life

 

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Grab a Hold

I just wrote this in my personal journal. This is unedited.

I’ve written before that I struggle with feeling and exuding passion.

I just had this picture of a driving force such that every spare moment is coveted in order to make a particular investment.

Perhaps it’s a romantic relationship, with every available minute spent together, or at least on the phone. Perhaps it’s 15 minutes, enough time to grab a camera and snap a few photos. Perhaps it’s time enough to scrawl a few more lines, or to read a few more pages of the current chapter.

I often find myself with moments available, sometimes large chunks of time, such as evenings, when I don’t feel a need to just zone because my day hasn’t been overly demanding or stressful. So I have time and energy available; capacity, but no passion.

And so, I wonder what I should do. Occasionally, I do watch a TV show or movie. Often I read, because that seems like a wise thing to do–but even there I struggle because I retain so little of what I consume.

There are some people, many perhaps, driven by a desire, an urgency, a passion, such that they don’t have a minute to spare. I’m not looking for a frenetic life, but a full one, a life with sufficient direction and motivation to place a premium on time and energy, to have an ever-ready answer to the question of “what should I do with my time?” It gets tedious (and wasteful) to have to ask that question nearly every day and then to spend time and energy searching for the answer.

All this, despite the fact that I am a person of faith, that life has a purpose, that God has work for me to do (enough work?). There are things I hope to accomplish in life, and occasionally I take some incremental steps in those directions, but I sadden myself with how much more progress could have been made already if I would grab a hold of the moments, rather than just thinking about them.

I don’t want to turn into a workaholic (is that the danger I’m keeping myself far away from?) and I am intentional about being faithful to my job, but yet there is so much more opportunity. Ironically, I often find myself discontent with whatever I’m doing at the moment, and yet when free to move on to the next thing, I often am not even sure what that next thing is, or should be. So I wash dishes. Or check email. Or write journal or blog entries exploring the same issues in life once again.

What am I holding myself back from? Is it fear of failure? I don’t think so. Perhaps it’s just fear of passion itself, getting so swept up into something that it becomes a central facet of life. While that could turn out badly (obsession, idolatry), if it were the right central focus of life it seems like it would be incredibly empowering to embrace it and follow hard after it. A goal. A mission. A quest.

But first I need a compelling dream, a vision so powerful that it can derail me from current pursuits (books I’m already reading, plans, schedules) and command my energy and attention. There again: is it the fear of loss of control, giving myself over to a pathway which will evoke–and also enflame–passions, pursuits which may dominate who I am, my time, my resources, my abilities, my choices?

It hardly seems safe.

It isn’t.

But it could be good.

 

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Life

 

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