I grew up with Easter being a holiday to wear a new ruffled dress, a pastel straw bonnet bedecked with ribbons, and my shiny patent leather shoes. I loved hearing the exuberance of the trumpets on Easter morning and the worship service felt special. Yet to me, Easter was mostly a holiday on the calendar, and it would take time and maturing in faith for me to understand how the resurrection impacts our lives. Easter carries the heart of the triumphant message of the gospel: Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. Easter resonates with the good news proclaimed, “He is risen!” But what does the good news of Easter mean for us and for our relationships?
The good news of Easter is that Jesus’ death and resurrection brings us forgiveness and breaks the hold that sin has over our lives. Because of God’s great love for us, we can be restored in relationship with God and one another. Our lives experience the ripples of transformative grace. We love because God first loved us. We learn to forgive as we have been forgiven. We become ambassadors of God’s grace to comfort others in the ways that we ourselves have received comfort (2 Cor 1:3-5).
Do you have a relationship in your life that feels challenging? Perhaps you are feeling hopeless about whether negative patterns can be broken? Maybe you are exhausted from trying to repair your marriage or mend a friendship? When we recognize that our God has the power to literally raise the dead, can we not trust that a broken or damaged relationship can be transformed? Do we believe that the God who spoke the world into being and breathed life into creation is unable to transform hearts and resurrect dead relationships? With God it is possible, on our own it is not.
Change is unlikely on our own. We can’t produce good fruit in our lives without staying connected to Jesus. Without Jesus we will quickly fall apart trying to produce change that is outside of our ability to control. We can’t produce the fruit of the Spirit on our own.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).
Abiding in Jesus is the avenue for transformation. In Jesus we have resurrection power, apart from him we will fall short. As we abide with the Spirit our lives bear fruit that blesses our lives and also impacts the lives of others.
As we begin to live as people who are transformed by the resurrection of Jesus, God’s grace will leak out into all of our interactions. Love transforms us from the inside out and impacts our relationships with others. God invites us on the restorative journey to be agents of renewal, building up God’s kingdom here on earth.
As we love God we begin to love the people that God has made. When Jesus summed up the law he made it clear that we have two jobs: love God and love one another. We make the love of Jesus visible through the grace that we extend to others. When questioned about what it takes to get into heaven Jesus made it clear that what we do for the least of these matters.
Yet, caring for our relationships can be a lot of work and much is dependent on the actions of others. We can’t change the behavior of others, but we can take control of our own responses. The apostle Paul instructs us to control our portion, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18). We can't change the actions of others, but we are called to be responsible for our own actions. We can be channels of God’s grace even when the actions of others are unhealthy.
Not everyone will be open to the love we want to share. Sometimes people are hurting too much to allow others into their broken world. There is wisdom in setting down burdens that were never meant for us to carry. God is the only one who can change hearts and minds, it is outside of our job description. In prayer we turn our concerns over to God and trust that God is able to do immeasurably more than all that we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). God has the resurrection power to create something beautiful from the ashes of a broken relationship. God invites us into fellowship through prayer. Because of the resurrection Jesus sits at the right hand of our Father in Heaven interceding on our behalf.
God does not heal every relationship. Sometimes God allows us to experience the consequences of the poor choices that we have made. God loves us even when our relationships are not healed.
The resurrection shows God’s character and heart. God loves us enough to die in our place to bring us back into fellowship. God’s love for us is boundless and deep. Not only does God love us enough, but God is capable of doing what is beyond our power. Trust your relationships to our loving God who loves us beyond measure.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Travis Jamieson