Easter celebrates the fact that Jesus is still alive as a living spirit who touches people in many different ways. He has inspired people to be compassionate, kind, honest, fair, and friendly. We could all give examples from our own experience. I think of my mother and father who lived in the spirit of Jesus .
The world has become increasingly compassionate, compared to former times, because of the spirit of Jesus. It is easy to forget what former times were like when there were no hospitals, public schools, social security systems, elimination of death penalties and many other things that show growing compassion and concern for justice, mercy and basic human kindness.
Not all good things have Christian origins, of course. Bad things have been done by followers of Jesus acting in ways that Jesus condemned. Because we are somewhat free, human beings make mistakes in what we do. But the good we do is often inspired by others whose goodness has changed our attitudes and behavior. Jesus has frequently been the one who inspired people to compassion and mercy.
Jesus has comforted people who are grieving or in trouble. We may remember him weeping on the loss of his friend Lazarus. He has guided many facing difficult decisions and supported many who are lonely. Jesus has helped people forgive themselves and others. Many are inspired by his forgiving those who killed him and those who denied him, as Peter denied knowing him when Jesus was under arrest.
Jesus gave a name to all the best things that life can be. He called it the Kingdom of God and he spoke about it more than anything else in his teaching and parables. He advised people to pray for it and to “seek it first” before anything else in life. The Kingdom of God refers to anything of justice, mercy, good faith and caring. The Reigning of God happens whenever goodness prevails over ungodliness, when people work together with God to make the world what God intends it to be.
In our complex modern world it is necessary to test the possibilities for doing what is good by remembering and following the spirit of Jesus. Some Christians do this by asking frequently WWJD---“What would Jesus do?” Others think this habit is too simplistic. The world is so different now from the one in which Jesus lived. His spirit, however, is still alive and gives guidance even in our complex world. Sometimes people have to do something questionable, rather than doing nothing at all in drastic situations where difficult choices have to be made. In the spirit of Jesus they can be assured that God will read their true intensions and forgive them when they make mistakes. Jesus himself struggled with temptations and difficult decisions. By following the guidance of Jesus the work of Easter will go on.
Paul Newman is a retired minister in The United Church of Canada
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