Easter: Because contrary to popular opinion, Christianity is not about “no” but rather about “yes”

This last week, I was reminded of something as a martial arts instructor. Yes, I already knew it, but every now and then this truth resurfaces. And it is the power of the positive.

But when I say positive, I really don’t mean a “yay, happy, joy, good feelings!” positive, but rather a “Yes” positive.

You see, I was teaching some students how to have better balance on their kicks, and an old class management skill flashed across my brain:
“Use positive correction rather than criticism”

Or, in my own words…

“Stop telling the students what NOT to do, and start telling them what to do.”

There can be fifty wrong ways to do a technique, but there’s often one right way (okay, sometimes two or three, but the point stands). I can be a more effective instructor and waste less time if I spend my time on the YES’s instead of the NO’s.

So for balance? STOP saying “Don’t drop your hands” and say “Put your hands where you want them!” STOP saying “Don’t hop!” and say “Bend your base knee!” Stuff like that.

So what does this have to do with Easter?

A sermon that I heard at Generation Unleashed in Portland sticks out in my mind. “Everybody talks about that ONE tree that God told Adam and Eve not to eat from, but nobody is talking about the YES trees. You know, every single other tree in the garden of Eden that they were told that they could FREELY eat from.

In this season of politics, Christians are known for what they are against. (Like there’s anything new to that.) All the things that we say that you can’t do, or you can’t partake in, or any of that stuff. And hey, there’s a reason that God speaks against certain things, and woe to the person who says “Yes” to that which God says “No” to. And woe to the person who says “Uh, I don’t really know, that’s between each person and God” to that which God says “No” to. When God says “No”, then my opinion or my preference or my feelings are non-issues.

However, Easter presents this: God is a “Yes” God. Please do not misunderstand…I do not mean to say that God is a “Whatever you want, buddy” God. But God is a Yes God. While many people are pissing and moaning about the things we can’t do because of God’s commands, God is a God who generously gives opportunities.

While many believe that the Church (as God’s representative, imperfect as she is) is asking them to give up their money, God is providing many of us more money than we actually need (if you disagree, yet you own a video game system, then sit your butt down).

While many believe that God’s commands are sexually prohibitive (some would argue that this is the number one reason people walk away from God, conscious or subconscious), God is the one who provided your genitalia, and the correlated pleasure receptors.

While many, like me, have lost a parent or a loved one, or are losing a parent or a loved one, it is easy in a time of incredible tragedy to lose sight of the fact that every previous breath was provided by God, anyway (This is, in no way, meant to “downplay” the pain or the grieving. Rather, please know that God is your friend during this grieving…not your enemy).

And while many have called on the argument of “How could a good God send someone to hell?” (How could God remove us from something so good, like Heaven or eternal happiness/fullness/wellness) Easter represents God presenting an opportunity.

Is God about removing opportunities? Or is He giving opportunities?

 

He is risen. For those who like to intellectually grapple with Christianity: This means that Jesus wasn’t full of it…that His message was endorsed by God the Father Himself, because what other explanation makes sense?

 

Easter. He is risen.

 

The opportunity is given. God’s yes is given.

So what now?

 

 

 

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV)

He is risen…and man, do we need that.

Every year on this planet, I become more and more convinced of a certain fact.

In fact, let me back up for a bit. I have always loved a good debate on the topics of philosophy and religion, as long as all parties kept the respect level high and the arrogance level down (regardless of what worldview they were coming from). So when, in my first year at Chemeketa Community College, a whiteboard simply sat in the middle of the Student Life Center with the question: “Can we be good without God?” on it, there was no way I could not stop to read the responses to that question that were written on the whiteboard.

And perhaps you can guess what was written. The Christians and other assorted theists say no. The others say “How dare you! I don’t need God to give me a sense of morality…I have a sense of morality!” And so on and so forth. But one question, written on the “no” side, particularly caught my eye.

“Don’t you believe in the innate goodness of the human soul?”

That is the response that I remember. I remember it because I am sure that optimism like this is shared by more than just one person.

But every year on this planet, I become more and more convinced of a certain fact…no matter what worldview you are coming from, it is very, very hard to miss this fact. Humanity is so messed up.

As a self-proclaimed sociology nerd, as the son of a history buff who has picked up his own interest in history, you really can’t miss this one: Humanity is messed up.

As I examine history, I can’t help but notice how often evil people held power over a nation, and the nation supported them. The Canaanites sacrificing helpless children to fire in order to please their gods. The brutality of the Roman Empire as the Caesars kept finding new and grotesque ways of killing their victims. The corruption and immorality of the Catholic Church during the crusades and the renaissance. The British abused the people they were in power over. The way the Americans, the lovers of freedom and liberty, virtually annihilated the indigenous Native Americans to get the land they wanted. The way that the French people during the French Revolution danced around the guillotine with their children singing songs of joy whenever someone got beheaded for breathing a word of support to the monarchy. Nazi Germany could not have run on Hitler alone…he had to be supported. I don’t know how to examine history and come out thinking that humankind is pretty okay.

 

“But Carson, we are getting better and better! Humankind is more moral today than our primitive past.” You know, that is EXACTLY what enlightenment thinkers were saying. In fact, the belief that “education is making mankind better and better, without religion” was one of the cruxes of modernism. But we now live in what is called a postmodern society.

Why is it called post-modern? Because modernism is dead. Why is modernism dead? Because the claims made by thinkers in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s that we were getting better were slapped in the face by World War 1, World War 2, and nuclear weaponry, amongst countless other things. Modernists couldn’t make it through the 20th century without their position looking obviously insane.

When has humanity ever NOT had a problem with wars?

When has humanity ever NOT had a problem with slavery?

When has humanity ever NOT had a problem with economic fairness?

The evidence stands: Humanity is messed up.

As I examine present-day sociology, I can’t help but notice several things. For one, the number of “douchebag” men (I can’t think of any other way to put it, nor do I really feel the need to) is far higher than I ever expected. The number of men that go to such great efforts to impress the girl enough to win her heart, but then turn into manipulative, controlling jerks…these men are FAR more common than they should be.

I can’t help but notice teenagers getting more and more messed up by others. By parents who uproot their teenager’s life in pursuit of that parent’s ever-fleeting happiness. By each other.

I can’t help but notice the bullying problem in today’s schools. Bullies do not operate in a vacuum…bullying is built on the reinforcement of the surrounding society. According to Olweus’s research, a bullying scenario has several roles that are being played. The bully (A) has people that copy their behavior (B), and people that laugh at or cheer on their behavior (C).

Where did these dictators, these douchebags, these bullies, learn this type of behavior? Or was it in them all along?

No, every year I become more and more convinced of the fallenness of humanity. And it hurts.

And although I don’t have the time to cover it, I have become quite convinced of my own fallenness. I am not examining fallen humanity from a pedestal. Rather, I am right there with them.

 

So when Easter comes around, especially this year, the reminder comes exactly when I need it.

God is not the cause of all this stupidity, these wars, these abuses. God created all things perfect, but humans with free will. When man sinned, God’s immediate next move was to curse…but also to promise the solution. The seed of the woman.

I am reminded that when humanity fell, God put in motion the fix: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, but that’s not the whole story. Jesus Christ, crucified and then RESURRECTED. And He is still coming to take every tear away.

When I see an abuse that I can change, I can do what I can. But if I can’t fix it, I know that Jesus is coming. I know that because He RESURRECTED, and He said He’s coming back.

Everything else is small potatoes compared to this.