Faith is a knowledge that dwells within the heart, beyond the reach of proof. The Easter Festival is celebrated as we move into autumn in Australia, where the rhythm of nature is busy refreshing the heart.
It is a time when traditionally humans in the southern hemisphere prepare for the long winter ahead, laying down supplies and preserves so they are able to take advantage of the winter season’s many reflective opportunities.
In the northern hemisphere however, the world is in the opposite mode, moving into spring. It heralds new beginnings and is all about harnessing energy for taking action and moving forward.
It has always seemed to me worrying that we divide our approaches to celebrating the Easter and Christmas festivals.
The secular approach seems to be often wholly focused on the feasting aspect of both times of the year.
The sacred approach, on the other hand, can sometimes appear to be over the top religious and very complicated.
It often seems as if the church can be perceived as operating in opposition to society, instead of being integral to it.
By now surely Christians are able to understand they need to only bring home a simple message; the birth and death of Jesus was all about love.
The challenge for us all at Easter, whatever our creed or religion, is to reflect on what love means.
The ancient Greeks were good at understanding there were many different kinds of love. Indeed they had many different words to explain it. Love for a sibling, love for a parent, or a member of the family was very different to erotic or sexual love, where physical attraction held sway.
Then there was unconditional love, the very best kind.
The ultimate example of unconditional love was the sacrifice of a caring carpenter from Nazareth in Roman times, whose name was Jesus.
He was indeed, historically real. He died dreadfully, crucified on a cross believing he was taking the sins of all the people in the world upon himself. He did this, so that people from his time forward would know, and have an opportunity to experience, everlasting peace and love.
Unconditional love is without doubt the hardest type of love for many people to come to terms with.
Putting someone else before self is a an act that requires a great deal of humility, an enormous amount of patience, a measured amount of empathy, tenderness, compassion, wisdom, and above all, a huge capacity for true forgiveness.
Unconditional love also involves friendship. Being best friends is all about forgiveness. Real friends will tell you what you often do not want to hear, or know. And it can hurt.
However if they are true friends, they won’t let you off the hook, but support you while you face the issues yourself and resolve them.
Best friends are about so much more than having a good time.
Someone who professes to love you as a friend would give up his or her life for you without hesitation. War veterans all over the world in our time and before would understand this concept.
Another wonderful modern example of unconditional love, at least in a literary sense, is provided by the fictional English character Sydney Carlton.
In The Tale of Two Cities, written by Charles Dickens (1812-1870) Carlton dies in the place of his friend French aristocrat Charles Darnay.
This awesome tale was set at the time of the French Revolution and involved a horrible death by guillotine.
Carton’s last words as he was led out to die are prophetic. ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.’
The dominant theme of the novel is resurrection. Darnay is given another chance at life by his friend’s sacrifice. Carlton chooses a life ‘better than that which he has ever known’.
Scholars also suggest that, in its broadest sense, Dickens’s novel was also about resurrecting the social order in France, which was to rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of the old one.
To truly love someone means putting up with all their faults, irritating habits and numerous shortcomings, as they do with yours.
When this happens it is possible to establish a lifelong relationship. If the people involved can also be soul mates, then surely such a relationship would be very close to a type of heaven on earth.
Today the word ‘love’ seems to have almost become a catch phrase, used by people who have met only once.
This word, treasured throughout the ages, has become an almost blasé term often expressed accompanied by much hugging and cheek kissing.
It needs work to see it restored to being part of a meaningful dialogue on life.
Jesus was both divine and human. He was strong in that he could suffer and endure so much on behalf of others. Christians believe that Jesus embodied both the sacred and secular.
To a non-Christian this idea might seem entirely ridiculous.
How can anything or anyone be divine and human at the same time?
Does this mean that The Holy Bible is both the word of God and human literature? Can both creation and evolution be true somehow?
Are we able to reconcile that science and religion are really co-travellers on our journey through life? Well a great deal of contemporary scientists think we can.
It is not a case of either or, but both and. No one should have to choose; the two areas of our life should be integrated so seamlessly that all we say and do flows forth from that viewpoint.
The answer to all these questions would be, and should be YES.
Both one side and its opposite not only can, but also must hold together even if they seem contradictory.
It is the only way we can seek to understand the truth and the whole of what is in reality, very complex. It is about balancing the external with the internal, good and evil and chaos and order, which for everyone is a constant struggle.
To say we can keep our professional lives entirely separate from our personal lives is just not practical.
How can anyone in business believe that the person they are dealing with is truthful is their personal lives but don’t stack up personally. Society is unwilling to accept double standards.
Every decision we make, every action we take affects all those people in our immediate circle and then vibrates out from that. This means all our choices need to be considered carefully.
It is also why social media can be so successful in business and beyond. But hey, no one said keeping a balance would be easy.
Life is a constant struggle for all and it is important we all take stock once in a while. We need to take time out to smell the roses and to celebrate the collective wisdom of those who have gone before.
As we bite into our chocolate Easter eggs and enjoy those hot cross buns, it is good to realize Jesus would have understood so much about our contemporary world and its society than we give him credit for, even with its almost total focus of commerce.
After all he was a carpenter, who no doubt made and sold furniture so that he could help provide for himself and his family.
You may or may not agree it is food and water that fuels our bodies; wisdom, belief and beauty that replenishes our spirit; trust, faith, hope, and unconditional love that feeds our soul.
In our contemporary age the Christian church stands still as an ‘outrageous statement of faith’. It is about people with all their flaws, frailty and foibles striving together to survive in a world that so often only invests in self to the detriment of others.
Christians, or Followers of the Way of Jesus the Christ are not perfect and have never really purported to be so. They act together, helping out their neighbours, helping out perfect strangers, offering a hand out, or a leg up to the needy, to the homeless, to those who come to the church for help, beaten, betrayed, bruised and battered often by family members, alongside those denied love and charity.
Holding commerce and Christianity in a unique tension during the Easter Festival, is all about maintaining a balance between the opposite sides of truth.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2012-2015