I grew up being told I should feel bad for Jesus dying, but should I? Catholic leaders are the worst for this as their decor of choice is Jesus dead on the cross: (interior decorator) “I love how you designed this room with the tall ceiling and gothic windows, but you know what it needs? Statues of a dead guy preferably Caucasian and historically inaccurate everywhere who looks miserable, so we can feel miserable. We should feel terrible for being terrible, and being the reason Jesus had to die. We need to do our best to ignore that Christianity is about love and joy because that doesn’t control people the way we want.” The church I grew up in had almost every sermon include at least mentioning that Jesus died. Even Christmas sermons included this: (pastor) “Jesus was born today… so He could diiiiieeeeeee, and it’s youuuurrrrrrr fault.” Easter was the worst for focusing on Jesus dying when Easter is supposed to be about His resurrection and life, which is the title Jesus gives Himself (John 11:25); notice He’s not the death and destruction? He’s the resurrection and life, which is the real power of the whole event. Jesus conquered death; that’s amazing. Dying is the easy part. Even I can do that. Gold fish are particularly good at it. What I can’t do is rise from the dead on my own. That’s the brilliance of Jesus. He rose from the dead; He was victorious. Even David Copperfield and David Blaine can’t do that, and they do some pretty incredible stuff. So why are so many Christians punishing themselves when we should be celebrating? Part of the problem is some people feel they need to be self deprecating in order to make God look good, but that’s pretty dumb. If God is great this should stand on its own. Christians need to learn to praise God without putting themselves down. What parent wants a card that says: “You’re the best dad in the world, which is weird when I’m the worst kid in the world. It’s an illogical impossibility, but somehow came true; it’s another miracle.” Denouncing ourselves isn’t worship; it’s criticizing God’s creation, and an insult to Him. We need to worship God by celebrating the great things He’s done including making us.
It’s like Christians are obsessed with the death of Jesus because they enjoy the shame it can bring. The problem is Christianity isn’t supposed to be about the shame. Jesus says He came so that we might live and live to the fullest (John 10:10), and both the birth and the resurrection of Jesus are events that are to elicit great joy. Unfortunately, guilt and shame have been really good at getting people to go to church and give their money; at least it used to be. There’s a reason older churches are getting emptier, and closing.
The fact that the death message has been used to cause guilt and shame blows me away because it’s, in fact, such an incredible display of love. For instance, when Jesus died the Father had to watch. It’s one thing to die for someone else; it’s another to let your child be tortured and killed by ignorant and arrogant nothings you could squash, but the Father didn’t. He didn’t go all Liam Neeson in Taken, and this is the same God who is said to have wiped out the entire world minus an ark full of people and animals. That’s a pretty crazy switch of events. That’s a pretty crazy display of love and dedication to humanity. We should at least start seeing the death as a demonstration of love and not a reason to feel bad.
Personally, I think the Church needs to cut back on pushing the whole death message, especially with the negative angle they use. Besides it being the opposite message of Jesus who preached love, what I don’t get is why would you repeat the same message over and over expecting people to care? This is especially true for a culture that is more about instant gratification and not feeling bad. If the news reported the same basic story everyday no one would listen. That’s why they’re constantly looking for new stories; they want people to care. But not Christians. We keep trying to ram the same story down people’s throats: (Christian) “You will like this!” When will Christians realize that a lot of people are tired of this same message?
We should treat the death like we treat Christmas. I love Christmas. I love the story of Jesus birth and the nativity scenes even though I make fun of them because the expressions of Joseph aren’t of a manly carpenter, but of an effeminate man mid dance move. And as much as I love Christmas, if someone tries to sing Christmas carols in the summer? Shut it down! The day after Boxing Day? Nope; I’m done. It’s time to move on. I’ll enjoy Christmas for the month leading up to the day, but then give me a break so I can miss it. Getting to miss things is great. We never get to actually miss the idea of Jesus dying, which really could just be acknowledged on Good Friday; the day that is supposed to be about his death. This would likely help people regain some of the awe this incredible event should incur instead of “Yeah, I know that already.”
Just like a news story, Christians need to be acknowledging what God is doing now in our lives. It’ll help our own faith and inspire others. If I wasn’t Christian I’d want to know why Christianity is relevant to my life now. Some guy dying for me isn’t that impressive. Soldiers die for others all the time. Biblically, the Old Testament doesn’t get stuck on any one event. It’s about the journey of humanity with God with the ups and downs. Passover was a big deal and became an annual celebration, but it wasn’t obsessed over. God kept working in the lives of the Israelites, so why do we act like He’s stopped after Jesus? Christians need to celebrate what God is doing now, and helping others see how God is good. Adding John 3:16 to the conversation, the idea that God so loved the world He sent His only begotten Son to die, so that whosoever believes in Him will have everlasting life should be the final part of our message. It’s the grand finale; not the opening lines we talk about. The death of Jesus is incredible and a vital part of Christianity, but it’s not the only thing about Christianity. We need to remember that God loved the world, and that Jesus didn’t just die, He rose from the dead and conquered death. Christianity should be a celebration of God’s love and dedication to humanity. Christianity should be the thing people look to when they want to be happy and feel joy in their lives… there’s a goal that needs some work.
If you’re a struggling Catholic (or Christian in general) maybe what you need is a new angle to see God in order that you may feel the peace and joy God wants you to feel.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people