Easter is for refugees and hipster youth

Posted on March 27, 2013


Easter is for Africans.

For Kenyans. My neighbors, my friends. The woman who I buy mangoes from and the sweet young lady who I pay to hem my pants. The man who sells sugarcane outside my gate. The Somali refugees who walk in huddles, heads covered in flowing scarfs. The street boys who beg for shillings probably to buy glue to sniff, but are still thrilled when I hand them a package of Wheetabix through the window of my car. The politicians who promise on TV to end poverty. The Indian man who owns the shop where I buy lamps—he always seems to be just rolling up his prayer rug when I come by. The hipster youth in skinny jeans who walk through my neighborhood, and the boys playing soccer in the dusty field next to my house.

Their lives are all touched by brokenness. One of my very good friends has a niece, Faith, who is an orphan. Faith’s parents both died of AIDS. At 12 years old she still ignorant as to why they died, and there is continual uncertainty as to whether she is HIV positive. They haven’t tested her. Or even told her she might have this ravishing sickness.

Another friend of mine got tuberculosis last year. While she was sick, her husband abandoned her with her two young children. He has made no contact with her, yet she still loves him and prays he will return. Because she cannot afford to keep her children, they live with her mother while she lives in a 8×10 foot shack in the slum.

A quarter of a mile from my house in the Kibera slum, every night there are hundreds (maybe thousands?!) of girls who sell their bodies just for the 85 cents to buy a package of sanitary pads so that they can continue to attend school during their monthly bleeding.

Easter is for them.

Easter is all about life from death, light from darkness. Redemption. The broken, the weary, the victims and the perpetrators. It is for the husband who left his wife when she was ill. It is for the men who take advantage of 13 year old girls desperate to continue their education. It is for the corrupt politicians who take foreign aid for development and use it to buy a few more Mercedes.

That is what makes Jesus different from any other “religious” path. Other religions say, “Here is a list of rules to live up to so that you can be a holy person.” And the people who are the best at following the rules are the ones who are applauded. But Jesus is different. He came to welcome all of us, if we would only believe in him. He came to bring healing for our hearts—hearts bruised and broken by the crooked ways of this world. But he also came to bring redemption to the crooked parts in us. We were created to live in perfect harmony with one another and to live in the freedom of joyful relationship with God. But we have sabotaged that relationship with our obsessive preoccupation with self-fulfillment, status, power, money, approval, control, etc. The list could go on. And if we are honest with ourselves, we end up ashamed at how much these things are enthroned in our hearts. I’m thankful that there is a way the shame has been removed.

Easter is about redemption. Jesus is a redeemer. He makes the broken, whole. The ugly, beautiful. The selfish, selfless.

Because God is a God of love, two thousand years ago, on a hillside in a remote corner of the Mediterranean world a man called Jesus willingly let himself be crucified, so that our shame and guilt would be removed in the eyes of God. Surely, if God no longer sees me as shameful, if God no longer looks at me and sees a self-absorbed control-freak, then the weight I carry has been lifted. And this is the clincher: He looks at me and calls me beloved. Now I am free to love lavishly, because I no longer need to strive for the approval of others, strive to be in control, strive for status or power.

THAT is redemption.

And when that happens in the hearts of wife-abandoning husbands, and corrupt politicians, and Somali refugees, and women who sell mangoes; then Africa (and the rest of the world for that matter) will begin to be a bit more of what God meant it to be. A land of amani, peace.