• Earthquakes, the Carbon Tax, and Easter

    Posted by Nils

    25 April, 2011

    At Easter we think again of the amazing sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. Dying for the sins of the world and triumphing over evil, this was God coming to earth in human flesh, walking among us, making the ultimate sacrifice, and then rising from the dead. But is that what it is really all about?

    In 1997 author J.B. Phillips wrote a book called ‘Your God is Too Small' in which he lamented the fact that our conception of God does not do justice to who God really is. In 2011, the same is true amongst many Christians in Australia. Our God is too small. We see Easter as Jesus coming to die for our sins and we're not quite sure what the resurrection is really about, save for the fact that we rejoice over it because we believe that, through the resurrection, God has defeated death. If we progress through our walk of discipleship leaving the resurrection at that, we have short-changed the Gospel.

    The question we as Christians must wrestle with is what the death and resurrection of Jesus 2,000 years ago has to do with the realities of today's world. What link is there between the truth of the gospel and today's world of the recent spate of earthquakes, the fighting in Libya, the fact that most of the chocolate we will consume over the next couple of weeks is made through child labour, the carbon tax, and Easter? Is there really a connection between the fact that thousands of children will die today of poverty-related diseases, and the death and resurrection of Jesus? What do the Millennium Development Goals - those UN goals designed to halve global poverty by 2015 - have at all to do with what happened at Calvary in about 33AD?

    For Christians, this time of year is the most important in our calendar. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to our faith. But too often we focus on the days of Jesus' death and resurrection without any reference to his life up to that point, and indeed his ongoing Kingship. What about his acts of healing, his deeds of compassion, and his defiance of the religious leaders of the day? What was the point of all that if his only purpose was to die for our sins? For most believers, there has been a terrible confusion over what the ultimate Christian hope actually entails. N.T. Wright addresses this most eloquently in his landmark book, ‘Surprised by Hope', in which he lays out the biblical reasons for the death and resurrection of Jesus, and what it means for us today.

    The fact is that, while the wonderful news of the coming of Jesus is that he did indeed die for our sins, that is not the whole story. Any Gospel that stops there is not biblical and is not honouring God for who God is. Any kind of Gospel that stops at a personal relationship with Jesus is too small and does not understand how much God loves everything that God made. Salvation is personal and spiritual, but it is also physical, emotional and social as well.

    The thing that Jesus spoke about more than anything else in the gospels was the kingdom of God. And it is in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that this kingdom has broken into history. Jesus' acts of healing, his deeds of compassion and justice, and his life of perfect love, were signs of the kingdom breaking through the darkness of life on this planet. When Jesus said “the kingdom of God is among you" (Luke 17:21), this is what he meant. Jesus' life shows that this kingdom is open to everyone, not just those who think they have it all together. It was for this reason that Jesus gave his warning to the religious teachers that the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame would be part of his kingdom before them (Luke 14:16-24).

    Jesus' actions led him into direct confrontation with the powers of the day, both the religious elite and the Romans. It was perhaps his most outrageous act of public disruption - the cleansing of the temple - that was the final straw in getting him killed. He made intentional and real decisions that confronted the religious leadership of the day. The death of Jesus is explained by the paradoxical fact that a major purpose of his coming was to die, while at the same time it was his acts of outrageous love and living out of the kingdom of God that led to it. And this is where the death of Jesus is least understood by many Christians. As well as dying for the sins of the world, the death of Jesus was the absorption of evil into himself. Colossians 2 tells us that “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." But it goes further. The death of Jesus is also about the reconciling of all things - “through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross." (Colossians 1:20).

    The great message of the resurrection is that God is reconciling the world to himself, and God invites us to be a part of it. All of creation matters to God - spiritual, physical, emotional, social, everything. And that is how what happened at that first Easter 2,000 years ago is relevant to the recent spate of earthquakes, the fact that most of the chocolate we will consume over the next couple of weeks is made through child labour, and the fact that thousands of children will die today of poverty-related diseases. To Jesus, these things matter immensely, and through his life, death and resurrection, God has begun the project of renewing all things so that what is promised in Revelation 21 - the glorious coming of heaven to earth - will finally be complete. This is the time when there will at last be no more tears, pain or suffering, when the old order of things - poverty, child labour, and the groaning of creation - will have passed away forever.

    There is nothing in the whole of creation that God does not love. Jesus' resurrection is a forerunner of what awaits us at the end of all things. We will one day also be resurrected, with new physical bodies in a world where creation itself will be renewed, when heaven and earth come together in the wonderful consummation of the kingdom of God. Until then, we have been given the immense privilege of participating with God in the bringing in of that kingdom through works of justice, evangelism, poverty alleviation, and in fact anything which brings in the rule of God. It might be going to a sick neighbour, visiting someone in prison, joining a campaign to alleviate poverty, or buying only fair trade chocolate. These are acts of worship that help in the renewal of God's world.

    This is what our faith compels us to do, and it is here where the link between the poverty and injustice in our world at present and the hope and promise of a better world that is coming is made real. This is the hope of Easter. What a privilege to be a part of it.

    Nils von Kalm works as a resource developer with World Vision. He is passionate about the importance of biblical theology informing our Christian worldview, and showing how Christian faith is relevant to the whole of life.