I must admit I have had to make an intentional effort this week to keep my focus on Jesus and all that he accomplished during the last week of His life. Beginning with His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, progressing through His trial and execution and ending in His eventual resurrection. The digital age in which we live clamors for our attention in a myriad of ways. Our social media timelines are never ending streams of distractions making it almost impossible to focus our attention. Seeing that I like to keep up with the current political climate, I have found the U.S. attacks on both Syria and Afghanistan the most difficult to ignore. The use of the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal in Afghanistan has revived a question among Americans we have not had to answer for a long time. How should we live given the threat of nuclear attack?
This question was asked to C.S. Lewis during the course of World War 2. I think his answer is still relevant given our current international struggles. C.S. Lewis’ response was that nuclear threat is really irrelevant to the question. He said you should live as you would “have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.” Lewis then emphasizes the flaw in the question when he says “do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation”
You see the true fear at the foundation of the nuclear threat, or the threat of war, or the threat of hunger, or the threat of poverty is the fear of human suffering and eventual human death. What C.S. Lewis points out for us is that death is imminent and many of us will suffer as we get closer to death. This was true before the nuclear threat, and it has not changed given that nuclear war seems more like a possibility. Given this reality the question is not how should we live in an age of nuclear threats? The real question is simply how should we live?
Each of us over the course of our lives have developed and refined a code by which we should live and by which we judge the actions of others. And what is most outstanding is we apply it in an unwavering manner to others. We are experts at pointing out the bad guy. And if it was up to us we would bring swift justice to every evil person and evil action we encounter. However, the lines are blurred when we find we don’t live up to our own standards. There is always an exception why we could not keep to our promises, why we could not commit and why our short comings are not “that bad”. We are hypocrites, we don’t live as we should, and worst still is that we know it. The justice and judgment we apply to others we do not apply to ourselves. What is God to do with people like us?
Jesus’ main rivals were the religious leaders of His day. They were men not totally unlike ourselves. They recommended strict adherence to the law for everyone but did not practice it as tightly themselves. Jesus explained they tie heavy burdens upon others but don’t lift a finger to carry their own burden. He also pointed out that all their deeds in the open are only done to make themselves look good and pious but secretly they were lawless. They were just like us holding all the world to high marks yet excusing our own missteps. We show our best side in public, while rarely ever addressing our secret vices. Jesus then asked a question to the religious leaders that is worthy of our consideration. How will you escape God’s righteous sentence?
Jesus fortunately illuminates a path to escape the problem in which we find ourselves. When speaking to another religious leader on a different occasion he explained that everyone who does evil things loves for those things to be kept in the dark and hidden. Everyone with hidden evil deeds is in danger of God’s righteous judgement. The justice that we cry out for regarding others evil deeds, God will one day apply to our own. But Jesus in glorious relief explains, “This is how God loves the world, that He gives His only Son, and whoever believes in Him will not be destroyed but will have eternal life”
What happened during the original passion week was that Jesus took on the sins of all those who would believe in Him. God, then dispensed the judgement due to all those sins onto His son Jesus through His suffering and eventual death by crucifixion. Then in an epic moment, as witness to the eternal life Jesus promised, God raised Jesus from the dead. Now raised to endless life and with all power and authority, Jesus commands every hypocrite that does not live as they ought, all the while recognizing the short comings of others, turn from their deceitful ways, acknowledge their secret sin and believe in His sacrifice and resurrection for forgiveness.
I will admit the story is quite unlikely. But the question that needs to be answered is “Is it true?”. Has Jesus rightly diagnosed the fundamental problem within you? Is there a just God who is concerned with the actions of His human creations? Did Jesus really die and resurrect proving He has the power to take on your sin while reconciling you to God? There is so much more that could be said but my wish is that you consider these things and have a blessed Easter weekend.