Easter: An opportunity for reflection

Guest Post

Easter is the really crucial cornerstone event in Christianity. Christmas is fun and is often more associated with church, Christian beliefs and faith than Easter, yet it is the latter that is more deeply reflective and indicative of what it is to be Christian.

Christian beliefs are not everyone’s ideal. The tide of adherence to Biblical belief is ebbing. Church attendance in New Zealand is gradually waning.  Indifference, derision and even atheism are now the norm.

Yet Easter and its story have much to teach us about life and happiness.  Whether you believe the background story or not is immaterial to learning some fundamental lessons about living and succeeding in one’s journey through the complexities and calamities that are our lot in life.   

Taking the Easter story at face value and looking at it from a humanitarian perspective the useful lesson is that while life can be a rough road sacrifice, pain and deprivation usually precede our more fulfilling and revitalising experiences.

We live in a world that has come to demand instant gratification. The line is, “What to do we want? And when do we want it? NOW.” From toys to houses, we want the best and the most from the start. We want the gain without the pain. We have collectively become greedy and demanding, impatient and unwilling to strategise, plan, wait and build steadily and sacrificially toward our goals.

The story of Jesus is, at its simplest, one of his willingness to take the hard and painful path to achieve his ultimate goals. It took him 30 years of careful preparation and three years of intense fine-tuning leading to the ultimate sacrifice to reach his stated aims. Those who learn restraint and adopt an attitude of calculated perseverance and persistence are more likely to succeed, and win in a way that is more satisfying and lasting.  Shortcutting can be smart and bring a level of reward but the best things in life tend to come from taking the longer road of sacrifice and determination.

It is also true in relationships. The totally vacuous and trite TV shows based around marrying at first sight are truly bizarre examples of how not to build a relationship. The norm has become to date, jump into bed, and demand all the benefits with no restraint, no responsibility and no consideration of the consequences. Most lasting and fulfilling relationships come about through hard work, sacrifice and time.

One of Jesus’s sayings was that the greatest act was to “lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  In other words, the strongest and most rewarding relationships involve personal sacrifice. Putting the needs of others ahead of one’s own. That sounds more and more like a quaint and dated idea in a “me too” world. We are now very adept at pushing ourselves forward: the selfies on facebook, the self gratification, the drawing attention to our wants ahead of others. We are increasingly self-focused and demanding of what we want, even if others miss out.

Our relationships are tending to be about what we can get out of them for ourselves. We happily confuse lust for love. We want that girl or that guy because we think they will give us what we want. Jesus demonstrated that friends who last are made by serving their needs before our own. Invest sacrificially in another person and build them up, strengthen their character and well being, help them achieve their dreams, reinforce their ideals and begin to enjoy a new sense of purpose and lasting contentment.

Easter also reminds us that living in a harmonious community and building productive relationships is not easy, or always successful, no matter how hard you try. Jesus had twelve good mates but even he tasted the disappointment and pain of being let down by one of his inner circle.  There are no 100% certain recipes for life. However, 91.66% is a pretty good outcome and shows what making an effort can achieve.

Perhaps the most useful life lesson to emerge from Easter is that of reaching out for hope. My grandson is feeling very vulnerable this weekend following a classmate taking his own life. “Pop, he just didn’t have any hope for the future,” he told me. What a tragedy. Our world is besieged by negativity. Stories of failure beat stories of success. Human life is under-valued. We each have significant worth and we can add even more value through applying the principles displayed in the Easter story. Hope is vital to our wellbeing.

We can choose a future of wholeness and contentedness and do nothing to make it happen, or we can set out down a path of determination, self-sacrifice and investment in others knowing that we greatly improve our chance of success. Reach up, dream big, set lofty goals, live in hope and expectation that you can get there but be prepared to dig deep and make the sacrifices in time and energy necessary to get there.

Having been a farmer and now an avid gardener, I know the value of a winter. The harsh cold and even the death and dying are critically important to a bountiful spring and an autumn of reaping. Easter embodies death and the hope of new life. As Alexander Pope said…

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blessed:
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

You do not have to believe the Easter story or accept the concept of resurrection but there is much to be said about, and embraced from, its life lessons.

Happy Easter.

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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

Guest Post content does not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its editor. Guest Post content is offered for discussion and for alternative points of view.

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