I don’t want to insult you, but I might, so I apologize ahead of time. Here it goes: As I consider the death of Jesus on this Good Friday in 2019, I reaffirm that God is not in control of everything. I think God is constantly nudging, whispering, hoping – but God is not controlling us and our behavior (and neither is the Devil – another topic for another time). The first gift God gave human beings was free will – each one of us has choice over much of what we do. And yes, there are aspects of human existence that are predestined – genes play a big part in our health and longevity – and we will learn more as we evolve.
I think it is lazy Christianity to believe that everything happens because God makes it so. It takes away from our personal responsibility – it blames God – and it makes absolutely no sense. What would be the purpose of creating human beings to be mindless automatons? If we don’t have Free Will, then we are just mindless beings that God toys with.
This does not mean that God does not make plans – the Bible is full of God’s plans that get ruined by our actions. God makes plans, and people can choose to follow them or not. From years of reading, pondering, and trying to understand Scripture, I have come to believe that the “plan” for Jesus was to bring the Kingdom of God to earth. I think that Jesus was completely taken by surprise when Rome and a couple of Jewish leaders got Him killed. Jesus asked God why God had forsaken Him – a phrase not spoken lightly. I think that God’s response to human sin was to defeat death by raising Jesus from the dead.This goes against most Christian theology, and I am willing to take grief about my divergence. There are a lot of things we believe that are wrong – like not understanding evolution, or not believing that human behavior has exacerbated climate change, just to name two. Or believing that LGBT people are not made in the image of God, and therefore are sinful. Go ahead and argue with me – I won’t be moved.
I think this view of Good Friday is more challenging because it takes this brutal murder out of God’s hands and puts it into human hands. It forces me to ponder how I would have acted if I were present at these events. I can’t say I would be any different from the disciples, or the Romans, or the few Jewish leaders – it is impossible to say either way.
So, if you don’t go to church on Good Friday, you are missing out on the central challenge to faith – not the absence of God, but the absence of human morality. Easter is easy to attend – we always put the whole dog & pony show out there, so you might come back the next week. If your faith is only about Christmas and Easter, that is just lazy. Getting through the darkness is really hard – so it’s best that we do it together. See you in church.
Steve Ohnsman has been the pastor of Calvary United Church of Christ in Reading, PA, since 1999. He has a BA in Religion & Philosophy from Wilmington College (OH), an MDiv from Drew Theological Seminary (NJ), a DMin in Christian Ethics from United Theological Seminary (OH), and a PhD in Leadership from Alvernia University (PA).