Easter is almost here. Chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies have appeared on supermarket shelves. Another Holy Week is approaching, but what does that matter in a modern world that is forgetting about God?
Paraguay, my home in South America, is a country rich in contrasts. Every day, waiting for street lights to change, I watch barefoot children wiping windshields and begging for coins between rows of gleaming new Mercedes and BMWs. Many of my neighbors live in fear behind high walls protected by armed guards, while others wonder where the money will come from for their children's next meal. Solutions to pressing social inequalities and conflicts of the day appear evermore distant and unreachable, because government and public institutions are crippled by corruption.
Equally troubling are attempts by a small, but powerful, minority to introduce mandatory sex education in all schools in the country. Under a new mandate, children in elementary schools would be taught about their free choice of gender: to be male, female, or other, and homosexual relationships would be normalized. Consequences of such godless doctrine would be devastating to children.
But God is still at work. Juan and Maria, a young married couple with two small children, have been making frequent visits to slums on the outskirts of the city where large families live crowded together in riverside shacks. The couple hears countless stories of abuse and responds with practical deeds of love and much prayer.
Remarkable changes take place as people hear about Jesus and experience His love in practice: an alcoholic father has given up drinking and started caring for his family; a youth, scarred by the abuses of his childhood, left the life of a male prostitute and began a new life of chastity and hope. Juan and Maria believe that, as Jesus promised, even today demons can be driven out by prayer and fasting – that the Spirit of Jesus has the power to change even the most depraved person's life.
Pablo and Ana, a brother and sister, recently set out to start a small church of their own with several other young people. Despite inexperience and strong opposition from members of their former congregation, they are finding new meaning and inspiration in the teachings of the gospels, and ways to put this teaching into practice. They are serving meals to the poor in their community and sharing material possessions among the members of their church. They hope to nurture a new culture of following Jesus, rather than having a rigid religious form.
Christ is victorious over death, and His Kingdom is coming. This is Easter! As Pastor Christoph Blumhardt writes:
When we hear about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it should stir and shake us. "What? Somebody has risen from the dead? Who is it? That can't be – if it is true the whole world must change!"
Only those people may be called Christians who, under the impact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and in the name of the one who rose again, lay claim to the whole world. They alone know that it will be only a short time until Jesus Christ becomes the ruler. He who merely accepts that Christ died and rose again is no Christian. He is simply a man with certain views.
A Christian then – a warrior and fighter – is one who concludes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ that the world will come under the rulership of God. He knows that as a Christian he must help toward this goal. As the church of Christ, we should live in constant striving toward the great reign of the king, Jesus Christ.
There is work to be done!