If Jesus remained in the grave, we’d be in hopeless limbo and be like a headless chicken!
Christians celebrate the risen Jesus on Resurrection Sunday. Easter, on the other hand, is a parallel ancient religious practice that’s been culturally and commercially embraced. In today’s holidays, Easter is associated to Lent’s Resurrection Sunday.
According to The Guardian:
All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too…In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.
Freedom of Religion vs. Freedom from Religion
In the Philippines, where there is FREEDOM of religion, Holy week and important days of other major faiths are given appropriate holidays.
This freedom allows Filipinos to choose and practice any faith, or to have no faith at all. In fact, there are groups of free thinkers among us who advocate for “freedom from religion” because religious belief can be a source of discrimination and violence, which I think is not untrue.
However, there is a difference between these two freedoms. The first freedom (of religion) means that people have the right to believe and express their faith or lack thereof. They can also persuade others to join their belief or “nonbelief”. The second freedom (from religion), if I understand correctly, this means that you can choose your faith but cannot share it publicly, lest you will be called out by those who disagree with your faith.
In my opinion, the basic premise of our democratic society is free speech – the ability to express, reason out and persuade others of our belief or non-belief.
But let me talk about another freedom that is relevant to Christians. Today, we celebrate the fact that Jesus is risen, what does it mean for those who believe?
The Resurrection Sunday
In the book of Acts, the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians” (Acts 11:26) because the non-Christians noticed a familiar lifestyle and behavior, they were “Christ-like”.
In the present time, not everyone who claims to be a Christian meets biblical standards. Being born from a Christian parent does not make a child a Christian, nor does attending church or doing good deeds.
A Christian is someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus- sought forgiveness for his/her sins and follows his teachings.
Christianity is not magic or a self-help program, but a life changing process. It starts and ends with an informed choice, anchored on faith. Good ones lead to growth and mental peace, but a bad one can lead to digression and miserable life. It is not a license to be woke-like, self-righteous and to look down on others.
Now, let me use the acronym “freedom” to summarize the gains of those who believe in the risen Jesus.
F R E E D O M
- Freedom– as human beings, we are prone to get entangled with activities that are value negating. Anything excessive is bad. Without God in our midst, walking away from these are difficult if not possible. (Col 2:13-14). Three decades ago, I am a smoker. As soon as I sought forgiveness for my short comings and accepted Jesus as my Lord, the desire for cigarettes is gone.
- Relationship– Christianity is about having a relationship with God, not following a set of rules and regulations. Christ’s death and resurrection reconciled us to God (Colossians 1:20). As a result, the feeling of shame, fear and boredom of approaching God is lifted. Desiring to be with God, talking thru prayer and listening to him thru the Bible becomes second nature. Believers learn to value their relationships with people too.
- Empowerment– the love of God transforms a person. After a sense of purpose is acquired, self-confidence and the development of new skillsets follow. A Christian, regardless of his past can become an achiever too, to be the head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13). Once upon a time, I drove a public utility jeepney plying the Guadalupe-Taft route to earn a living. Not ashamed of it but God gave a better opportunity.
- Enlightenment– by recognizing the existence of God, wisdom is gained (Psalm 111:10). Discernment and observing biblical principles becomes easier, and in the process gaining experiential knowledge (wisdom). The examples I used in my coaching/mentoring sessions, and speaking engagements are not gained from books or a degree, but from personal experience as a consequence of both obeying and disobeying the Bible
- Deliverance– because of Adam’s sin and humanity’s failure to keep the Mosaic law (old covenant), we are under a curse (Deuteronomy 28:15-68 – sickness, pain, failure, and family destruction). But because of Christ’s death, he took it upon himself, and when he rose from the dead, he gave us a curse free second chance in life (Galatians 3:10-14).
- Opportunity — as mentioned earlier, Christianity is a process that begins and end with a decision. Everyday, when a situation is presented, Christians are free to choose (Gal 5:24). This choice can either make a believer stronger and be transformed, or go back to his old self and backslide.
- Money– don’t get me wrong, money will not fall from heaven. But when a believer follows the principles of prosperity like giving to the poor, tithing and working hard, God will bless the work of their hands. I grew up in a household where renting a house was the norm. When our payments were late, we were castigated if not told to leave. There were times, we only ate once a day. But, thank God, we are now in a good situation.
While this is available to all, the “tempo” of change is still up to the person. It’s like an unclaimed gift, meaningless to the recipient. This explains why some Christians appear to move slowly or not at all.
Happy Resurrection Sunday everyone, Let’s stay focused and enjoy what the risen Savior has given us!