I was judged earlier this week and I haven’t been able to shake it. The inability to shake it has had me confused because I fully realized in the moment that the judgment was about the other person’s fear and had nothing to do with me. Nonetheless, it has been rolling around in my head ever since and I just figured out why.
Here’s what happened: An acquaintance asked me in passing what I was doing for Easter. I responded, “Nothing and I love it! Easter has never really been a big deal…” and this is where she jumped in with, “Well, except for Jesus rising from the dead and all that,” with a half-smile and a roll of her eyes. Oops! I had stepped in her hornet’s nest without realizing it! I tried to recover by explaining it had always been a quiet, reflective holiday and never about big family gatherings, but the damage had been done. It was clear, I was in danger of hell fire and I wasn’t the least bit concerned!
This stuck with me because I do believe Jesus actually lived and that His life and example are my guiding force. BUT, I believe that for ME, not for everyone I cross paths with and beyond. So, it prompted the question for reflection, “Was I being too casual about Easter,” given the fact that I do believe Jesus matters.
I decided I was not being too casual and I will say more about that in a bit. First, I want to address what also had me circling this experience for several days. This woman’s statement was well-intentioned as she has a firm belief that Jesus dying and rising from the dead matters. She also has a belief that Jesus dying and rising from the dead should matter to everyone and if she senses it doesn’t, it is her job as a Jesus-believer to point out the lack of faith. This is where it ends for me. I can’t in good faith expect you to believe the way I believe about anything, yet this has been happening throughout human history.
What we don’t realize is when we force our belief systems onto others as the absolute truth for all humanity, bad things happen. Instead of drawing people towards what we believe to be their salvation, we actually invite them to move further away and our forcefulness creates a wall between us and them. It is convenient, as it tells the believers who is still in danger of hellfire, and it is dangerous because it justifies the believers in intensifying their efforts to persuade and coerce.
There is just one problem with that—most world religions declare love to be the only way to navigate through this world. Love has an inability to be coercive. In fact, the Bible tells us “Love does not insist on its own way,” in 1 Corinthians 13:5, so most believers, by trying to force their way of believing upon others, have laid love aside in favor of fear.
I get it. Their fear is well-intentioned, so one could argue they are actually being loving. And, before I go any further, I should include myself in this. Every single day I have at least one moment, usually many, where I slide into fear and end up acting in coercive ways to get someone to see the error of his/her ways and embrace what I believe to be the “right” belief, method, path, etc. This phenomenon isn’t confined just to spiritual belief; it also shows up in how we befriend, how we love our spouse, how we parent.
In the end, our beliefs are simply opinions based upon what works best for us as individuals. I believe following and embodying the teachings of Jesus makes me a more loving, light-filled, empathetic person, so I keep learning from the Bible, and praying, and meditating. I also believe we all have a little piece of the truth, so I practice being open to all belief systems, gleaning from the pieces of truth each precious human being holds.
As a person who resonates with the teachings of Jesus, as well as the beauty found in the quiet practices of Buddhism and the prayer life of Islam and the celebration of connectedness in Hinduism, I find Easter to be beautiful AND it is simply any given Sunday. Jesus commanded me to live out His love in light of His life, death, and resurrection, not just celebrate the resurrection. So, if it is all the same to you, I would prefer to be light and love on any given Sunday or Tuesday or Friday, whenever and wherever I am led. And, if you don’t mind, I am not going to say the name of Jesus, unless you ask, because I am pretty sure He never announced who He was as everyone was super confused that day 2000 years ago when He died like a common criminal and then His body disappeared and then he reappeared—that had them scratching their heads because they didn’t know He was God; they thought they had lost a super cool friend and teacher, that’s it.
The beauty of Easter is Jesus embodied love more fully than any human being had ever done and He probably would rather we work on embodying that same love over showing up to church today. Yes, I might be going to hell for saying that, but that is a chance I am willing to take because this week has been difficult and in order to be ready for tomorrow, I needed my walk around the lake as the sun rose and I need a day of quietness and reflection.
Happy Any Given Day of the Week! Love and Namaste,