By the end of this month we will be again reminding ourselves of the events of the first Easter. Good Friday is 31st March and Easter Day is 1st April. For many this weekend will be just another chance to indulge themselves, with no thought of God. It is rather appropriate that Easter will be April Fool’s Day, because depending on their position many will be thought fools. In our society dominated by secular thought, those of us who take time to reflect on the greatest events in human history will be thought foolish; and yet Scripture is clear that those who live with no thought of God are foolish – ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”’ (Ps 14:1). So how do we in fact decide who is the fool?
Our culture is becoming increasingly polarised. We have seen the tragedies caused when people with extreme convictions (both secular and religious) have been responsible for the deaths of others. As a result people are calling for “muscular liberalism” in our schools. Such a call is made because “extremists are using schools to ‘actively pervert the purpose of education’, peddling religious ideologies that narrow children’s horizons and cut them off from society.” (Daily Mail 8 Feb 2018). We could write a book in response to such an extreme statement. So called extreme Christianity cuts no one off from society, but demands that we live as a part of our society for the good of the whole of society. Any meaningful human society will have a variety of ideas and understandings, but we are not to gag our differences, but rather we are to discuss them and live in mutual respect even though there might be complete disagreement.
Easter is THE EXAMPLE OF EXTREME CHRISTIANITY. Jesus said “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.“ (Jn. 10:11) We can go through John’s Gospel and find other verses where Jesus made it clear that He lived and died for the good of others. Jesus was extreme and focussed in His approach to life. Although He made it clear that He often disagreed with people He never tried to condemn them. On the contrary we are told, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (Jn 3:17) In the spiritual realm we are told that “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 Jn 3:8), because the devil is set on destroying all that is good and beautiful, but Jesus came that He might restore humanity to a full and proper relationship with God.
In order to accomplish that restoration He went to extreme lengths. He humbled himself and gave up His rights and position as God. Unlike many today He did not demands His rights. From another angle He did not pass by on the other side saying “It’s got nothing to do with me”. He got so involved that He fully identified with the need of humanity, he took the blame – “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24) One hymn-writer put it this way “In my place condemned He stood”. It is said of the Christian God that He “… so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)
Christianity is extreme. From a human angle it is foolish, “Why take responsibility for another’s failures?” It is this extreme foolishness that turned the New Testament world upside down, and throughout history has cared for the poor, provided for the widow, has provided schools and hospitals, liberated slaves and overthrown people-trafficking on a number of different occasions in a society that was often hostile to its teachings and love.
So how do we approach Easter this year? Let’s accept that our wider society not only thinks that we are foolish, but would falsely accuse us of being extremely destructive yet show them that we, like our Saviour love them and long that they might know the peace with God that comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord who was so extreme that He died that others might live. Even on the day He died He saved the life of a man who deserved his punishment.
Your Extreme Friend and Fellow-believer,
Bernard Lewis March 2018