“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5 NIV)
I admit that I was feeling a little cynical about churches lately. I live on Education Hill in Redmond, which could also be known as “church hill” given the number of churches on 166th Ave. They’re all putting up their signs that say, “Easter service! Come join us!” and my first reaction is, “Nobody wants to come to church.”
Don’t get me wrong; I want to come to church. But I’ve been going to church every Sunday morning since I was in the womb. My reaction comes from feeling that inviting people to church is a really outdated thing to do. To the rest of Americans, Christians don’t act any different than they do, except perhaps to be even less compassionate. Why would my friends want to come to church?
That made me think of a quote that I have always loved, which turns out to be from theologian Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” What would make people really want to come to church? If churches were full of people who have come alive! Church would be an irresistible place. And that is, in fact, what Jesus promised us. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b NIV).
Yet it is apparent to even the casual observer that most people who claim to be Christians are not living abundantly full lives. We’ve been talking this Lenten season about the addictions in our lives, the things that have more power over us than we intended them to have. These addictions rob us of joy, of life to the full, because they keep us from Jesus. As Doug emphasized, the solution to our problems is all of Jesus. We need the whole Jesus. Trying to take pieces of his teachings or trying to fix ourselves through “behavior management” will not give us life. Paul tells us, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5a). Jesus tells us to abide (or remain) in him, so that we may bear much fruit (John 15:5).
We admit that we have moral failures. We ask God to remove them. We fill our lives with him instead of them. If that sounds a lot like the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, then you’re right on track with what we’re learning! A church full of people who are freed from their addictions to power, comfort, being flattered, and the like will be a place full of people who are coming back to life. It will be a place people will want to come, with or without being invited.
I’ve changed my mind on the Easter signs, by the way. Easter is the best day of a Christian’s year. It’s the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, which is the proof that he has power over everything, including the things that are keeping us from being fully alive. We can’t wait until we’re perfect to ask people to join us; we should be so excited that we invite everyone in, even if they don’t yet know why they want to come. So celebrate with abandon – and then go take Jesus up on his offer. He’s still in the resurrection business.