Power to Live
It’s Easter, a forty-day season in addition to a day, in my own church. And while I speak from my own Christian tradition, as always, today I am especially pondering the meaning of Good Friday and Easter, the whole movement of reconciliation between God and humanity. And—me too.
There are those who describe the death of Jesus as substitutionary—someone had to die to reconcile us with God, so Jesus accepted that fate. Substitutionary atonement can lead to the sense that God needed a sacrifice, a bloody gift, to bring human beings back into relationship. But that’s not the God we know and love!
Here’s another way to think about this, one that works better for me. God knew that humans could never accomplish getting ourselves back into the good graces of God’s holiness. God decided, that with our distance from God, that the only way to make it right was to absorb the pain, isolation, and all the neglect and commission that caused our separation from God. God—in Jesus--died to take away the pain of alienation and distance, to set us right again. And then, God—though dead—was raised to new life by the awesome power of love! Love has a life of its own, enough to raise the dead, to change the world, to absorb pain, to make all things new. I have rudely (and laughingly) simplified it, of course.
You need not be Christian to experience and enjoy the power love. Love is the power not to throw pain back in the face of the one who caused it. It is the strength to choose tenderness, the rooting to allow for vulnerability and growth. Love is the creative genius behind human life and love, forgiveness, abundance, and the capacity to give and receive. Love is the antidote to judgement, fear, and anxiety. It is the blessing of faith and hope. Love brings God back to us, gives us back to ourselves, to others, to the Holy One whose idea and character love is.
We are, perhaps rightly, timid to speak of love in the academy. It’s too personal, risky, too easily misunderstood, and even dangerous. That all being true, I don’t want to pass up an opportunity to celebrate love that’s bigger than feelings and stronger than death. It’s all around us. In people choosing good, in a world bursting into life, in communities coming together to celebrate freedom, even in the urge to find meaning. It fuels learning and teaching, living in community, exploring faith, caring for each other. It’s all love, and something to wrap our hearts and minds around, to notice, to share, and to bask in the glory of this life-giving and transcendent power. Let us hold on to it fiercely and with good cheer. It will hold on to us too.
The Rev. Dr. Jan Fuller is University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.