by Lauren Gilstrap Milley

Christians spend a lot of time at Easter focusing on Jesus rising from dead. While that’s important, it tends to overshadow the first part of the story. Jesus was – executed. Executed as a criminal. Why? Well, that’s the part of Easter that I think far too many of us “good church going Christians” conveniently overlook. Ironically, it’s exactly the part of Easter that makes it a story for absolutely everyone.

If Jesus had just been some nice guy walking around telling people to love their neighbor and turn the other cheek, would the Romans have really cared? Probably not. Instead, he was executed by the state because his message was much more dangerous.

His message was that things don’t have to be this way. There is a better way and it’s all of our responsibility to make it better. His message wasn’t about how to live in a racist world – his message was how to stand against racism and forge a new world without it. His message wasn’t just about how to forgive unfair police brutality – his message was stand with the persecuted, overturn the tables and rebuild a better system, one that’s fair for everyone. Jesus wasn’t a pacifist. Pacifists don’t get executed by the state.

So what makes Easter everyone’s story? Easter is the story of God (however you define that) saying “yes” to Jesus’ message of compassion and justice and “no” to the greedy, self-serving powers of the status quo.

Whether you believe in a bodily resurrection or not, because of Easter, Jesus’s message of a better, more fair, more just world has outlived the Empire that killed him by centuries. Because of Easter, we all should stand with those society marginalizes, speak up for the voiceless, put our pocketbooks and our pride on the line for what we know to be right.

The social expression of love is justice. That is what Jesus taught and that is what he gave his life for. Easter is God saying “no matter what they do to you, I got your back, keep going, keep fighting – light will always outshine the darkness.” And that makes it a story for everyone – everyone and anyone who wants to make the world better.

Happy Easter, Happy Spring and here’s to keeping the faith, fighting the good fight, getting in good, necessary trouble and leaving this world just a little better than we found it.