The Social Dimension of Easter
Yesterday churches around the world celebrated the most pivotal event in human history, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It’s the resurrection that brings life, hope and the promise of eternity. It’s miraculous and glorious, unprecedented and unparalleled.
As our pastor put it, “after Easter, death is dead.”
And I’m sure millions of lives were changed yesterday. According to a 2010 Barna Group survey, some 40 million Americans pledge to invite a non-believing friend to church for Easter Sunday. If even a tithe of that number follow through, that’s quite an attendance surge. And no doubt, many of those new attendees leave closer to Jesus.
For this I rejoice.
And yet I’m also bothered by how we do Easter. Because if I’m honest, I think we only get Easter partially right. And here’s the part we miss:
There’s a social dimension to Easter.
What I mean is that while the resurrection does create a way for an individual to come back to God, it also creates a way for individuals to come back, well, to one another. Indeed, resurrection power reconciles us to God, and it also reconciles us to others.
Here’s how the apostle Paul puts it in Galatians 3:23-29:
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,heirs according to the promise.
Over the years, some commentators have only seen a vertical reality to this passage. The thinking goes that Paul is saying that when it comes to salvation, God sees no difference.
The problem with this reading of the text is that it’s incomplete, that it fails to properly acknowledge that in the passage Paul chooses to use the three primary social divisions of his day: race, class and gender. It’s a rhetorical choice that brings with it horizontal implications to go along with the vertical.
Walter Hansen is a New Testament scholar at Fuller Seminary, and here’s how he interprets this text:
“the new vertical relationship with God results in a new horizontal relationship with one another. All racial, economic and gender barriers and all other inequalities are removed in Christ. The equality and unity of all in Christ are not an addition, a tangent or an optional application of the gospel. They are part of the essence of the gospel.”
At church this weekend, the kids learned the bridge diagram. I’ve used the bridge diagram for years. Indeed (and Hallelujah!), Easter helps humanity cross back to God.
But let’s not miss the fact that Easter also helps humanity cross back to one another. Spiritually speaking, the resurrection removes sin’s social consequences and replaces them with wholeness and reconciliation. And when it comes to the genders, there’s no room for male privilege when men and women are “one in Christ Jesus.” Join me in saying “hallelujah” for this as well!
Perhaps it’s time for a new diagram?