Easter. Easter is on my mind.
I grew up attending a very large Lutheran Christian church. My dad rarely went to church; my mom attended, making sure she was at all our choir events, getting us to Sunday School, driving us to youth gatherings. My brother and I went to summer camp every year, and worked or volunteered at the camp when we were old enough. In confirmation classes we learned about the Bible, God and Jesus.
Yet, though I was immersed in this lifestyle, as I was leaving home for college I had a question that was never answered: Why? Why did Jesus have to die on a cross and then be raised from the dead? Why would a supposedly loving God do that?
In college at Bemidji State University, a public college, I found myself spending a lot of time with my Christian friends. My friends were Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian...you name the denomination and I probably had a friend in it! It was my evangelical friends who finally answered my big question. They did it by loving me and welcoming me as I was. They invited me to their events and Bible studies. No pressure. Just welcoming love.
The answer to the question, "Why? Why did Jesus have to die on a cross and then be raised from the dead? Why would God do that to His Son?" became clearer to me as I was reading a book about a missionary--an independent missionary, who felt a calling in his heart, but was not sent out by any particular denomination. He just went. He went to South America, to a tribe of native people who had literally never heard of Jesus. He didn't know their language; he lived with them and learned it. He lived as they lived. Ate what they ate. Got sick when they were sick. He made friends.
One day, he was trying to find a way to explain to them who Jesus is. That's a pretty tough concept to explain with a language he was not born into. He explained it something like this. Looking down at an ant hill busy with activity, he tried to express that he loved these ants, but the ants couldn't know that, because they were ants, not people. He loved them so dearly, but no matter what he tried, they still didn't comprehend who he was or how much he loved them. Finally, he decided to become an ant. He left his human body, took on the exoskeleton of an ant, and crawled into their ant hill. Some of the ants accepted him as their own. Some tried to kill him. In the end, he changed the whole ant colony, and the ants finally knew who he was.
I can't find the book, I don't remember the author, and I don't remember the story in detail, but I do recall that this ant story hit home for some of the people in the tribe*. They understood that God took human form as Jesus, came to us, was loved by many, but hated by some and killed. Yet, because He was God, He rose from the dead, and appeared to those who loved Him many times before going back to His Godly form in the heavens. The one thing everyone who met Jesus could tell was that He loved them, even if He didn't quite agree with what they were doing. He tried to tell them that they need to concentrate on loving each other more.
Well, you know me, so you can guess that the ant story hit home for me, too. It was the frosting on the cake that all my friends had baked for me in leading their lives as Christians. I realized that I was being transformed by the love of Jesus the Messiah. Feeling truly and deeply loved by God, my Creator, filled me with such joy and love for others that I knew I had to share it with everyone.
Easter is always on my mind in some form or other. Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus is alive, and Jesus is coming back! Until He does, we need--no, want--to share His love. With everyone. Share some love today.
* The book is Bruchko, by Bruce Olson