Last year on Good Friday, I wrote a post about evil. Good Friday is always a day that sums up evil for me, and it just feels right to take time to consider it as we grieve the death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Today, I don’t have as much time to spend writing a full blog post about evil. You might take some time to read last year’s post here, but otherwise, I’ll add in some fresh thoughts.
These past Lenten days have obviously been about preparing for the events of this weekend: for the journey to the cross, and the agonizing hours in which we witness our Lord’s slow, painful death; for the hopeless darkness of Holy Saturday; and for the surprising miracle of His resurrection on Sunday. Lent is always a time of deep personal exploration, of cleaning out our interior closets, so to speak, and figuring out what we need to let go of in order to greet Jesus with joy on Easter. That’s why Lent is so much about confession, and why each of our prayer bead devotions has included some time for confession. Lent is about coming to terms with our own sinfulness, so that we have a better sense of why Christ died on the cross.
The fact that we need to understand what Christ was doing on the cross was made clear in a recent Facebook post from one of my friends. (Well, the word “friend” is not really applicable here; we sang together in my high school choir but didn’t share enough to be called “friends,” and she had recently found me on Facebook in an attempt to reconnect with members of our old choir.) Soon after the tragedy in Japan, she wrote that the people of Japan – just like the people in Haiti and the victims of 9/11 – were being rebuked by God for their refusal to recognize the state of Israel. My response to this post was immediate and physical. I was irate, sick, and saddened, all in one fell swoop, and I immediately de-friended her (the first time I’ve ever done that).
While I wish that I had handled the situation better, and possibly even tried to dialogue with her, I am not surprised by her comment. I think she reflects the thoughts of a lot of people. Granted, her point of view is pretty radical for most people, but she is on the same spectrum of people who believe that evil comes from God. When someone says about a traumatic event, “God must have a plan,” that person, too, is saying that the traumatic event was, in some way, caused by God. When something bad happens in our lives and we get angry at God, we are, in effect, accusing God of wrong doing. I’ve done it many times. I want so much to know that God is in control of everything, including the bad stuff.
The message of Good Friday, however, is that God is not the cause of sin. As Genesis makes it clear, everything that God created was “good,” including we humans, whom He created in His own image. Unfortunately, in our rush to be even more like God, we disobeyed God, and opened up the world to sin. We are the ones who are responsible for sin in the world – the disasters, the tragedies, the traumas, and the betrayals. When something bad happens in the world, we need only blame ourselves. As Walt Kelly said in his iconic Pogo comic strip, “we have met the enemy, and he is us.”
If we understand that God did not create sin, then Good Friday is all the more remarkable. We see that Jesus willingly took on the sins of the earth even though he wasn’t responsible for them, and died so that creation might be cleansed. He died so that we might be forgiven for the sins that we created.
As you go through the day, reread the passages in the New Testament that describe the crucifixion scene. Feel the sorrow, the misery, the pain, and the suffering as Christ takes on – literally – our sin. Experience the darkness, thunder, lightning, and earthquakes as he dies on the cross. Walk through the emptiness that covered the earth after Jesus was buried. And then confess your sins.