1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Death runs in the family. Everybody dies.

There are all kinds of issues arising from death. One is separation anxiety. Separation is a trauma we’re all dealing with at some point in our lives. For me it happened for the first time when I lost my Dad through divorce. When my parents divorced I was 2 years old. I couldn’t voice my confusion back then. If I could have, I would have said something like this: “Dad why did you leave me? I thought you loved me!”

My Dad really didn’t leave me. He was divorced from me.

Death does the same thing. Death divorces people from us.

Death divorced Jesus from the Trinity. For a while the Trinity was reduced to two. Talking about trauma here: It is one thing when families are torn apart; it is quite another when the Trinity is torn apart. Here is what Jesus prayed when He went through the agony of separation (Psalm 22:1):

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

God did not leave Jesus. He was divorced from Him.

The pain of separation has scarred all of creation. “It is finished” Jesus prayed shortly before His physical death on the cross. What is finished? Is Jesus finished? Obviously not, otherwise His last word would have been: “I am finished.” How about: Death is finished? Well, He is about to die, so that can’t be it. How about: My punishment is finished? Still, this doesn’t ring true because his punishment was the death sentence, and He was not dead yet. How about: My mission is accomplished? I believe that with all of my heart. Jesus finished what He was set out to do.

Our souls are housed in our bodies during our lifetime on Earth. Death eventually separates the two. A soul without a home is the greatest agony imaginable. Rootless, restless, hopeless, empty and lost our souls roam without a home. Divorced from God, our souls are drifting gypsies. But praise the Lord! – Jesus has saved us from homelessness. He is currently in heaven preparing a place for us.

God hates divorce and did everything in His power to overcome separation that goes beyond death. Reunited with our Maker, we beat futility. Life on Earth is not business as usual with Jesus in our midst. We get a foretaste of eternal life while we’re still here.

Yes, Jesus is in our midst because His expiration on the cross lasted less than three days. On the third day He rose from the grave. His mission is indeed accomplished. We now have a place to go to, and Heaven is waiting for us to come home.

Romans 8:38-39: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

There is power in separation. The builders of the atom bomb knew that as a fact when they succeeded in splitting atoms. And yet, there are things that no separating force can divide:

God’s attachment to His creation!

More powerful than the splitting of atoms, more powerful than all negative forces put together, is the power of God’s love.

In Jesus we see God’s love acted out. Jesus shows us in a million ways how God loves us. His follower John once wrote that our world is too small to carry the amount of books that had to be written to describe Jesus’s life on Earth. Yes, our world of misunderstandings, pettiness and warfare is much too small to conceive of a love that generous. The love of God is counter intuitive and counter cultural. It’s all invasive and all inclusive. It’s a love that stops nowhere and goes everywhere – even embraces mortal enemies. Jesus prayed for His torturers before He died and said (Luke 23:34):

“Father forgive them! They don’t know what they are doing.”

I rest my case.

Here is a spoiler alert for you: God’s love will stretch us if we open our hearts. Hearts get bigger and life gets better when we let Him in. Don’t even assume that God could lose interest in His creation! God won’t give up loving us, not in a million years. It’s something to remember in our worst hour. His love puts us back together and heals our brokenness. His love is both soothing and infectious. Inspired by His generous affections, we go out and do the same. We spread His love. And it all starts with receiving His.

“All you need is love,
Love is all you need”               
Paul McCartney, John Lennon

Galatians 6:1: “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”

It’s a modern miracle that Jewish identity persisted even after losing their home country to live in various nations all over the globe. A great example of preserving their cultural identity is the reintroduction of the Hebrew language. The process of the Hebrew language revival began on October 13, 1881, as Eliezer Ben-Yehuda and his friends agreed to exclusively speak Hebrew in their conversations. As a result, the language, which had not been spoken as a mother tongue since the second century CE, once again became the national language of Israel.

To protect their integrity, Jewish upbringing emphasized separation: stay away from that, avoid mingling with these. This approach served two purposes:

  1. Maintain Jewish identity;
  2. Avoid disintegrating into foreign cultures

While this protective mode has worked very well to survive all kinds of cultural invasions, the same approach has a tendency to isolate. When Jesus came along He mingled with everybody, He did not stay away from foreigners, outsiders, and He had relations with all sorts of troubled people; this was highly counter-cultural!

What is easier: to learn something new or to unlearn something? I believe both can be hard, but unlearning a bad habit can be a lot harder, especially unlearning prejudice. Jesus carried no baggage. There is no labeling or defensiveness in the Son of God. Learning to let go of our baggage will immensely contribute to removing walls that we put between ourselves and our neighbor.

Paul recognized that in his letter he wrote to his friends in Galatia, which is modern-day Turkey. He encouraged to reach out rather than to stay away from troubled people. He encouraged to build bridges rather than to burn them. Let’s keep that in mind as we embrace today!