Several years ago I was walking through a store just before Easter. Along with all of the lilies, hams, and Easter eggs I saw a huge display of Easter baskets. They were filled with either Barbie dolls or plastic machine guns.
While I expected to see cellophane-covered baskets full of eggs and candy, I did not expect to see this! What does Barbie or a machine gun have to do with expressing the hope of forgiveness and new life?
Paul describes the cross as “offensive” in his letter to the church in Galatia, and I began to wonder what was so offensive about the cross that these companies decided that guns were a better option.
It could be that I’m reading too much into it, but it was clear that a different God was being lifted up – the god of money and profit. They were not at all interested in spreading a message of forgiveness and reconciliation.
But it still bothered me. Easter, to me, is the most significant day of the year. It is the day that eternity changed forever! The God of the universe proved that His love is more powerful than even death itself! And here it was, being replaced with worldly values of false beauty and the celebration of violence.
This is more than just a simple marketing scheme – if we believe John 10:10, the enemy is constantly looking for ways to subvert the message of hope. Evil sneaks in subtly, and here it seemed to be “Forget redemption – if you are popular enough or powerful enough, that’s all you need in order to be loved.”
But the cross says just the opposite! The broken, the powerless, the down-trodden are the ones to whom God comes! While the “pretty and powerful” people sat in their palaces up on top of the mountain in Jerusalem, the criminal Jesus hangs besides two thieves and one of them is welcomed into eternity!
Do we love our popularity more than we love Jesus? Do we love other’s opinions of us more than we love God’s?
Do we love our guns more than we love our children? Do we trust in our own ability to keep ourselves safe, or believe that God has a better way?
We are going to offend people sometimes – because believing that peace and humility are better than strength and a show of power is offensive to some. But God calls us to be counter-cultural. Let’s give our children something better than candy and war toys and false images of beauty to look up to! Let’s stand against violence in all of its forms, and model to our community what it means to forgive, to include, and to welcome those different from us!
Let’s change our country from worshiping money and beauty and weapons. Let’s lift up humility and kindness and courage as the true pillars of strength. Let’s follow Paul’s instructions in Romans 10 to “outdo one another in showing honor”, to be a place where anyone can come and find hope here.
Is there hope for our country, for our world, for our church? Only if we who call ourselves followers Jesus continue to show the world what it means to be people of peace.
– Rev. Bill