We don’t get many sunny days in Cleveland, but this Easter was beautiful. The sky was bright with hope. My wife and I drove to church like normal, passing pastel colored signs and clever sayings in front of the dozen or so churches we pass to get to ours.
To our safe place.
We worshipped. Praised God for what His sacrifice did, is doing, and will do. We shook some hands and headed on our way to an Easter lunch.
During all of this, just a few blocks away, there was a man breaking.
A man who people knew as good. A man who helped children and attended birthdays. A man who had probably gone to his share of Easter Sunday services while growing up.
This man would become the most hated and most searched for person in just a few hours.
I was on the couch with my wife when we saw the news story in my timeline. Pictures of kids in their Sunday best, standing next to grandma was disrupted by the reality of one broken man who chose to murder a stranger.
I’d like to say that the first thing I did was pray, but that would be a lie. The first thing I did was start calculating in my head how far away we were from the man. Were we safe? Should we go somewhere else? What route should we take?
We were safe. We were miles away from his last known location, safely indoors. But still, my mind wondered. As posts streamed past my fingers, rumors of him getting closer, and then further, kept me on alert. I went to sleep that night cautious because death was on the loose.
When you get down to it, the Easter story is as much about death as it is about life. It’s as much about God’s justice as it is about God’s love.
It’s one thing for us to sit in a church building and hear about God’s forgiveness. It’s another thing altogether to see what Steve Stephens did, to read what people were saying about him, and realize that God loves him just as much as he loves me.
Just as much.
When Jesus died on the cross, he saw exactly what would happen on Easter 2017 on a sidewalk in Cleveland, and he chose to go through with it.
Steve Stephens, Robert Godwin Sr, me, you…
He loves each of us just as much.
If Easter means anything, than it must mean everything. It must not only make me unafraid of encountering a Steve Stephens, it must move me to forgive the broken and the violent, to love the dangerous and the dirty.
And Easter must remind me that I need Jesus just as much.