Your mission is to the undeserving – the scroungers who could help themselves if they weren’t so lazy, the illegals who shouldn’t even be here, the perpetrators of abuse, the ones who know what they’re doing is wrong but find it easier to continue than to try to stop. Your task is to bless them beyond their wildest dreams and certainly way, way beyond anything they deserve. Would you accept the mission? Can you imagine what the Daily Mail would have to say?
This is what Easter is about – this was Jesus’ mission.
The scrounger who found it easier to live off other people (Zacchaeus) found something far greater than material wealth – forgiveness, acceptance, generosity and restoration to his community.
The illegals who shouldn’t even be in the community in the first place – the lepers who were supposed to stay outside the town where they couldn’t contaminate anyone – they weren’t ordered out of town, they were touched by a gentle, fearless hand, healed and restored to God and man.
The perpetrators of abuse – those men who dragged a woman from her lover’s bed (leaving him unscathed, of course), hauled her naked and shamefaced through the street without stopping to enquire what kind of abuse made her flee her husband in the first place – they were given a chance to find within themselves a place of humility and compassion which opened a door to living differently in future, a gesture that made real change possible.
And the one who knew what he was doing was wrong, but found it easier to continue – Pilate, the man who knew even as he washed his hands of the whole affair that he’d had the chance to save the life of an innocent man and had chosen not to – he too was encompassed in that “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
And me. The one who would sometimes rather nurse a comforting grievance than walk the costly path of forgiveness. The one who, from the security of marriage, used to look down on those whose sexual mores didn’t conform to Biblical norms – until the marriage failed and I found myself a single mum on benefits. I will admit that changed my perspective. The one who is so often more concerned with being right than with admitting my imperfection and my need of grace. His mission was to me, too.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow at first – that God cares as much about the burglar who ransacked your home, the abuser who stole your innocence, the drug dealer lurking outside your local school, the drunk driver who killed your precious child, as he does about you.
But it’s also a glorious draught of freedom. Because if God’s love does not encompass all of humanity, there’s a possibility that I could do something that puts myself beyond its scope. As it is, I know that nothing, nothing I will ever do, no secret I carefully buried in the past, no scornful abuser making me feel less than nothing, no stinking pride and superiority making me feel better than everyone, no grinding poverty and no choking wealth will ever put me beyond the scope of the love of God. That was Jesus’ mission, and with His cry of “It is finished!” He was announcing, “Mission accomplished.”