The events of Easter week ask each one of us: “Which side am I on, Love or Death? What do I choose with each of my thoughts and deeds?”
We don’t always see Jesus’ life, suffering, death, and resurrection as a life-and-death question for each one of us. But it is. Jesus' suffering and death on the cross, followed by his renewal of life and hope for his followers, pose the real question of our own life and death to each one of us. The fundamental question is, “Which side are you on, the side of death and destruction or the side of life and creation?”
This is a personal question, but also a collective question. The values and directions we see in our larger society are made up of individual thoughts and deeds. Personal salvation is important, but if your love stops with love for God, and does not extend to your neighbor, to your brother and sister, then it is selfishness and not of God’s love.
Jesus’ life and death were the outstanding expression of love for God, for creation, and for all his fellow human beings. He was born into a religious “law and order” culture. Yet, he continually practiced and stressed the need to go far beyond the literal laws of the Hebrew culture to obey their spirit. The spirit of the law was of God’s love and justice. “You must love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you.” (Mt. 5, & Lk. 6) Jesus’ non-violent example shows that it is love that overcomes death. Love, not life, is the true opposite of death.
In John 19 we read that when the soldiers who crucified Jesus came to divide his clothing, there was a seamless robe that could not be divided without destroying it.
The spirit of sacrificial love expressed by Jesus’ life and suffering is like his robe, a “seamless cloth of love”. Love is indivisible. Each and every selfless thought and action of love from any human being for one’s neighbor is a part of the seamless cloth of love. This seamless cloth includes the love between husband and wife, between parents and children, between friends, and strangers. It is each kindness done - however small.
When our direction or goal in life is immediate, individual self-satisfaction, we are often choosing the path of death. The abuse of alcohol and drugs is part of this destruction. Sexual intercourse without love and commitment is death. Much of the suffering in this world is caused by these damaging choices.
There is no human perfection. We all make mistakes and wrong decisions. It is our basic direction in life that is of crucial importance. If you choose love to guide your life, then you will find meaning in sacrifice and in both your own and other people’s suffering. If you choose death with its division, brutality, and lovelessness, then you will become lonely, hopeless and bitter.
The truth is that no one, victor or victim, will escape suffering and death. Your suffering may be physical, spiritual, or both, but you will experience it whether you are young or old, before you die. The Easter story gives us the key to the meaning and reality of suffering and death. God’s love overcomes death.