For a long time, I had no idea how to handle Good Friday. I didn’t understand why we had a whole day set aside to talk about the crucifixion when we are supposed to be focused on the resurrection of Jesus. Catholics, mainline protestants, and other liturgical congregations all had this solemn nature and even had whole services dedicated to this holy day, but I never really understood why until recently.
In the faith I grew up with, we never focused much on Good Friday. We only focused on Easter. Only on life, never death. Only on resurrection, never suffering. Only on the Heaven promised us, never the hell we live in now.
And that’s not a bad way to live. It’s narrow and shallow, but you can’t say it’s not appealing. Why would you want to engage in the pain of this world when you can simply focused on your individual, personal relationship with God? That’s what I did for most of my life. It was about me and my personal savior, and I gave thanks that my God sending my Jesus to the cross to die for my sins.
It was pretty and neat and didn’t require a lot of thought because Jesus paid it all. I was sheltered by the color of my skin, my middle class status, and the fact I was perceived to be heterosexual. I had no concept for what it was to suffer loss, pain, or discrimination. I didn’t know what it was like to have a government give its blessing to those who would seek to harm me.
But since my eyes were opened, since I finally owned who I am, since I finally chose to engage with my own suffering, the suffering of my LGBTQ community, and stand in solidarity with my friends of color, immigrants, and women (not perfectly, but I’m learning), I look at Good Friday in a different way.
I always looked to the stone being rolled away and Death being swallowed up in Victory. I still do, for therein lies hope and promise and justice and victory.
However, you can’t have the promise and ignore the pain.
You can’t have the justice without acknowledging the suffering.
Right now, all across our country, state governments have already passed laws to abolish LGBTQ+ protections, and are working to pass more. It’s not even sneaky, fancy talk where people could exploit loopholes in the law to uphold faith-based bigotry. It is outright, full on discrimination against the queer community, especially our transgender and gender non-conforming friends.
Right now, there are systems in place that work against people of color. My black friends are getting shot and can’t get a good education. My Muslim friends are being profiled and and targeted for violence. My immigrant friends are being deported when they are simply trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.
These actions from the State and from our culture are devaluing human life and many of these actions are driven by groups who call themselves Christians.
But these are misrepresentations of the Christian faith.
In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that they are directly opposed to the cause of Christ.
As stated in my last blog, while politicians are scrambling to protect the power of one faith group, worrying about who is using which bathroom, who can marry who, and trying to protect business from refusing services to individuals, there are people living on the streets, who cannot feed themselves, who are being kicked out of their homes, who are being threatened with violence, who cannot provide for their kids, who don’t have access to education and public services, who are dying.
There are people suffering from government sponsored bigotry.
My people. My people are suffering…
Suffering is one of those big things that you hit and you just don’t understand. We can’t comprehend it. That’s why when we experience it time and time again and it still, without exception, it shakes us to our very core. I think that’s why so many people lose their faith when the come into contact with great suffering, internally or at the hands of another.
I’ve found myself looking up and the sky, shaking my tiny fists at the universe and asking, “Why, God? Why? Do you not hear the suffering of Your children?”
But then I feel that still voice from within me, the universe of God’s presence swirling in my chest, whispering,
Babe, I do. I do hear them. And I’m weeping with them. I ache with them. I am suffering, too.
For if one part of the Body suffers, the whole Body suffers. I believe that the majority of American Christians have failed to understand that the same breath of Life that fills their nostrils is the same breath of Life that fills the nostrils of every other person they are working to keep subjugated and oppressed.
That majority of American Christians fail to realize that the policies they push on others cause others to suffer, and they fail to realize that God stands with those who suffer.
It’s hard for us to imagine a God who suffers alongside us. That’s why we were given Good Friday —to remember the Divine suffering with us.
In non-denominational and evangelical churches, you’ll seldom find Jesus hanging on the cross, as you would in a Catholic church. “Because Jesus is off the cross and is alive.” That was what I was told growing up. And while that’s true, I see this as refusal to stare pain and death and suffering in the face.
Remembering Jesus on the cross is important because Jesus on the cross is the symbol of God standing in solidarity with every bit of human suffering that ever has been and ever will be.
It’s God saying, “I know what it is to be on the margins and to be homeless, what it is to speak truth to power and have no one listen, to be wrongly convicted of crimes I never committed, to be misrepresented and demonized by those in power, and to be killed by the government.”
Jesus on the cross screams to me that I am not alone in my personal suffering, that my community is not alone in our collective suffering.
Jesus stands in solidarity with us and calls us to remember that by standing in solidarity with all who suffer.
All revolutions begin here, on the outskirts, on the margins, in the deserts, with the oppressed. From these margins, there are voices rising up, declaring, “Prepare, ye, the way of the Lord.” God is meeting us here and it is evidenced by the fruit of our lives. And that is good news on a Good Friday.
Just as important it is on Good Friday to remember that God stands in solidarity with the oppressed and marginalized, my brothers and sisters, may we remember that Jesus did not stay in the grave. Jesus did not lie still behind a stone, but, in true power, picked up His life and walked out of that tomb to show that injustice will never be victorious.
Not even a government sanctioned death could hold Jesus back or silence His message of love, acceptance, and that power belongs in the hands of the people so that all may live free.
And today, I claim that same truth for myself and for all of us:
As we suffer in these dark days, I trust and believe that God will deliver the victory to those of us who wade through suffering.
It is always darkest just before the dawn, so don’t lose hope. Keep going. Keep pressing in. Keep fighting for your rights and the rights of those around you. It will get harder. It will face larger giants, but nothing is to hard for our God.
Justice belongs to our God, and as heirs to the throne, it belongs to us as well.
May we march on towards our Promised Land. May Justice roll like a river. May we remember why Good Friday is so good. May we look expectantly towards the resurrection as we look expectantly for our own.
Thank you, God, that you suffer with your people, but that you do not allow your children to taste bitterness forever. You are good and just. I trust You to complete that which is important to us. I believe that You will bring justice to your people.