Here on this Good Friday when Christians remember and observe the difficult journey of Jesus to the Cross I hope his followers will go deeper into the meaning of that scene.
I have said I don’t believe in an actual bodily resurrection of Jesus. But the Cross remains for me a fundamental part of my understanding of authentic religious truth. It carries for me a definition and a demonstration of love that moves and challenges and instructs me. It says, here was an example of genuine human love, so unfettered with moral demands or religious requirements or doctrinal expectations that it was simply offered with nothing but compassion for everyone even those who brought love to that cruel place.
Let us remember that Jesus was misunderstood, too; mostly by the religious crowd of his day. He did not fit into their theological definitions, their moral guidelines, their political agendas or their class structure. He was considered a misfit, a trouble maker, a foolish idealist. Although brilliant and imminently educated he kept companionship with the poor, the sick, the disabled, the addicted, the lonely and the left out. He did not socialize with the powerful or the wealthy; rather he often sat in squalor and cradled the diseased or mingled with children in play or visited the mentally ill or those in prison.
His was a life of amazing love, gentleness, grace and openheartedness. But it was also a life of great courage; a life dedicated to social change; a life of what Yale professor Harold Bloom has called “spiritual ferocity.”
I wish we could remember that life. Religion should not be simply a claim of truth but a search for it as well. Christianity should not be a competition between religions in which it attempts to defeat its opponents, but rather a way of life that seeks no harm to others, that is built around justice and humanitarianism and deep compassion. Shouldn’t it dare to love others completely? Everyone? Shouldn’t it make the world safe for human differences?
That is the message I get from the life and death of Jesus. I would like to make an attempt to live by that example. Not so I can go to heaven. Not in order to be always right. Not to elevate myself above any other single person or group. But just because it makes such good sense to try and live that way. And because it gives life a valiant, worthwhile purpose.
English author and philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, once said, “Create all the happiness you are able to create and remove all the misery you are able to remove.”
That’s a pretty good description of the life that today people remember ended in love on a cross.
© 2013 Timothy Moody