Easter is a special day. It celebrates the purist love known to man, the love of one human choosing to die for another. I know there's debate about whether the story of Jesus rising from the dead is true, but there is no debate that I can find about whether Jesus chose to die for us, in fact, there's much historical evidence to support this, so Jesus' choice is what I want to focus on in today's Easter blog.
Stories in books and movies celebrate the person who chooses to die for family, friends, or strangers. Why do we celebrate this? Because we all wish we would do the same thing, but we know deep down inside that we probably won't. Self-preservation is strong in most of us, but self-preservation is not held up as the human ideal; rather, it is often represented as cowardice, and we scorn the person who grabs the life preserver out of another's hands.
Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) and "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Mark 12:31). But the important point isn't that Jesus said the words, it is that he lived them. He did lay down his life for us, not knowing for sure that he would rise from the dead, and he loved us, his neighbors, more than he loved himself.
I find it telling that Jesus did not ask us to do as he did and love our neighbors more than ourselves. Perhaps it is because he knew that that is too much to ask from us; perhaps Jesus knew we would have a difficult enough time loving our neighbors at all, so asking us to love them as much as ourselves was the task he presented us with, what he wanted us to strive for, because he knew it was the one we could achieve.
Long ago, perhaps forty years ago or so, a friend and I were discussing Jesus' words and whether they had any value if Jesus was not, in fact, the son of God. I'll never forget my friends words, "Sure they do because how Jesus taught us to live is the best way to live. The world doesn't run well at all when people put themselves before others." Ah, a light bulb moment.
And so simple too. If we were all willing to die for one another, and we were to love others, friend or foe, acquaintance or stranger, similar or wildly different, as much as we love ourselves, the world would be, quite simply, a heaven on earth because no one would strive to be more than, to have more than another.
And maybe that's what Jesus was telling us before he died for us. The secret to making our world a heaven is in our own actions. We act like Jesus, and we create a good world for everyone. We scorn his words, and we get the world we have today--war, poverty, greed, inequality, ugliness, despair, and hopelessness.
Easter reminds us of our potential. It's not too late to change our ways; the choice is always ours. We just have to make the choice.