What’s the one thing you look forward to most on Easter?
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Easter is the high holiday for evangelical Christians like myself. While Christmas gets all the flash and bang by society, Easter is the pivot point of our faith. The entire life and work of Jesus Christ, right up to and including His death on the cross, means nothing outside of Easter. None of it would have had any effect had He not risen again.
For me, Easter starts a couple of weeks before the actual date. Baptists don’t celebrate Lent … actually, I’ve never really understood that word “celebrate” in connection to Lent, which is a time of self-deprivation. I tried it one year with some friends as an experiment and, while dealing with the sudden cravings for chocolate that I’d never had before I chose to give it up for Lent was interesting, but I didn’t have a spiritual experience from it. My pastor at the time suggested this was because Baptists already practice self-control in many areas that society thinks are odd, so saying I wasn’t going to eat chocolate for 40 days was simply just practicing a skill I already possessed. Maybe.
But back to the subject. Once a quarter during the year, our church does the Lord’s Supper and Good Friday is one of those times. I do a more relaxed format of this every quarter, but Easter is when I really try to be formal with myself. A couple of weeks before the Lord’s Supper, I essentially start a Step 4 inventory of my life and sins. I try to be ruthless with myself, digging deeply to jot down people I owe amends to, which includes God. As I write out my list, I am constantly offering prayers to Him for what I know to be failings in my walk with Him. Over the years, my list of people has grown shorter just because I practice self-control more in my personal and thought life. Yeah, sometimes the people who are on my list have no idea that I owe them amends because the sins I’ve committed against them were inside my own head. Yes, I still list them because whether they know it or not, God knows it and that’s the real point of this exercise.
My goal is to be done by Palm Sunday, the list written out, sometimes my apologies made, occasionally my amends underway. It’s not always as clean as that because life is messy, but I try to be at peace with God by the time I approach the Lord’s Supper table. In this, I fulfill Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 5:23-24 – “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24, NIV).
There are some people who will always be on my list because reconciliation is impossible with them. It may be that they wouldn’t accept my overtures or it could be that they have done something for which there can be no reconciliation. This doesn’t mean that I don’t take the Lord’s Supper or that I feel like I am taking it unworthily. Ultimately, Christian salvation is the sole work of Jesus Christ and not at all dependent upon me or my efforts.
There are things in life that we can’t fix. Very likely, if I’d had a wonderfully spotless life, I wouldn’t be a writer. The point of the process is to bring me to self-awareness and forgiveness … both my forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of me. There are relationships that can’t or shouldn’t be mended. There are people I have forgiven for things they’ve done to me who I have no intentions of reconciling with because it wouldn’t be healthy for me to do so. There are sins in my life that were a part of my life the first time I worked through this process and will still be struggles I have when I stand before the Bema Seat. The point of the exercise is not to become sinless, incredibly self-aware or to feel like I’m worthy of God’s grace because those things are impossible goals. The point is to stand before God, knowing what I have always known … that my salvation relies wholly on Him and none of it on me.
For me, the best part of Easter is right after I’ve taken the Lord’s Supper on Good Friday, when I know that … at least for a short period … I have laid the burden of my ongoing sins at His feet, secure in the hope that I have perhaps moved a little closer to where my Savior wants me to be as a believer. Once again I feel the way I felt the day I accepted Christ, awed and humbled by His grace and mercy to me who does not deserve it.