My life in faith began differently from what my church friends were expecting at the time. I received an answer to a question, not a release from guilt.
The question was whether God existed at all. The answer seemed to have come from God directly. It convinced me that he had been taking my faith struggles as seriously as I did, and that he would be with me in all the struggles to come.
By church standards, that wasn’t much of a conversion experience. But it was all I could offer by way of asking to be included in its fellowship. Now, I know that it was more than enough to keep my faith growing for a lifetime.
What was missing, of course, was Christ. To all the church folks I knew back then, God doesn’t come to you except in Jesus and you can’t get to God except through Jesus.
Knowing that I would never believe anything like that, God, I think, adjusted his coming to me accordingly. And he left me to come to Jesus on my own.
The Jesus I came to appeared first after I joined the church and was put to work helping out in the children’s Sunday School. What drew me to him were images coming to mind while leading the younger ones in singing Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.
Jesus still comes to me the way he did in that first encounter with him. He was a man overwhelmed with the idea and the experience of a Love beyond human imagining, not of an atonement beyond human deserving.
What this meant was that Jesus’ story could never be for me the story of a man who died for us “while we were yet sinners.” These well-intended words of Paul are quickly smothered by a theology based upon the reprehensible idea of an innocent man’s blood appeasing an angry, punitive deity unworthy of the designation Divine.
As I have come to know it, Easter cannot be as Paul thought it was, “evidence” of the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice for the world’s sins. It is instead, a celebration of hope that love will never end. It honors a man in whom the power of such hoping made the end of his life a new beginning for all of us.