I’ve come to find that the most important conversations don’t happen around the coffee cart at church, but at while eating lunch at a brewery afterwards. Or on a Saturday night around my kitchen table while demolishing a bag of Robin Eggs.
Easter inevitably brings up important questions. Anytime we start talking “who gets to be with God,” people have concerns.
First of all, there’s this whole issue of why, in Deuteronomy 23, some are excluded from assembly? Eunuchs, illegitimate sons, Ammonites or Moabites… It’s a little disconcerting to read because, even though it’s under the Old Testament, those laws can leave you a little concerned – is there anything that would mean I can’t have communion with God? How serious is this? And what on earth does God mean?
But reading it over again, and after scrounging up a commentary, it’s apparent that we often forget that God is a holy God. Yes, He is our Father, but He is also holy. Many of the events and laws of the Old Testament are evidence of that. A man dared to touch the ark of the covenant by accident and was struck dead 2 Samuel 6:6-7. Israel was unfaithful to her covenant relationship with God and wandered in exile for decades Jeremiah 32.
Between all the ceremonial washings and the sacrifices commanded of the Jews… we should understand that. You don’t just get to approach God. And yet we do.
I’m not perfect and He is – in every single way – and I get to call Him Father. That should be much more shocking than it is. I mean, really – Easter changed everything.
The veil that separated the ark and the people was ripped in half upon Jesus death.
No more ceremonial washings for women on their period and men who just had a wet dream (yup, that’s in there).
For gentiles not born into the covenant.
For sons and daughters who bear the sins of their parents.
For people under the weight of past sin that marks them.
That’s not your identity anymore. Your sin does not define you. You don’t have to do penance to make up for it (because nothing you could ever do on your own would make up for it anyways Ephesians 2:8). You now bear the mark of God’s own son. He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our sin. The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed Isaiah 53:5.
And yet, we cannot forget the wedding feast of the lamb Matthew 22. Yes, we are invited into God’s presence. The father sent out his servants to invite anyone they could find. But there’s still this expectation of knowing God’s holiness… You don’t attend a wedding in the same clothes you would repaint your house or weed a garden. So when a man shows up in the wrong attire, he’s sent away.
You can’t enter into salvation without donning the garment Jesus so graciously provided through His death on the cross and resurrection. It’s that garment that covers our shortcomings. That allows us to be near the Father. Because what does perfection have to do with imperfection? They can’t have any association with one another lest the imperfect mar the perfect.
But apparently that’s just how much we’re loved – God wanted us to be near him so badly that he allowed his son to die so that the gap might be bridged John 3:16.
Still… you have to put on the garment.
In church on Sunday, the pastor mentioned the hope we have – death is not the end for those who have died with the assurance of eternity with Christ. So if we share that hope, we’ll see them again. It’s a bit like that final scene in The Last Battle where C.S. Lewis writes:
“And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
But assurance of salvation – wow. I always think back on the parable of the sower, and it makes me want to cry. So much of the time, we plant seeds of the gospel and the worries and concerns of the world choke them. What of those people?
Funny how Easter can actually bring up some difficult conversations.
While it’s traditionally a time of hope and joy, for some, it leaves us feeling uneasy, because death just might be the end for those who don’t share our hope. All they have is this life.
Suicide is a real tricky one… will we see those people again?
And what about the people who die, and we really aren’t sure what they believed?
Or those who pass on after us? It’s hard to know we might leave this life without knowing if they settled things with God.
After closing my eyes for a few minutes, my heart breaking for all the people I know who want no part of this “God thing,” I settled on one simple truth:
God is perfect.
Therefore, God is a perfect judge. He knows their hearts. He knows where those people stand with him – if they put on the wedding garment of the lamb. I don’t have answers to every questions, but I can rest in that. I can trust that God, in His perfection, knows if those people WANT an eternity with Him or separate from Him.
I also think Easter breaks God’s heart too.