How do we as Christians deal with the whole topic of the “pagan” celebration of Easter versus the Christian holiday of Resurrection Sunday? Do we avoid all things that reek of jelly beans or chocolate Easter bunnies during this most holy of weekends? Do we refuse to allow our children to participate in Easter’s version of trick-or-treat (aka “the Easter egg hunt”)?
While I’m not going to try to tackle these beyond-my-pay-grade questions, I do think that many Christians miss a huge opportunity when it comes to Easter. This becomes especially clear when we watch how the early Christians used pagan traditions as a pulpit to preach the gospel, even if it means using jelly beans. The Apostle Paul himself dealt with the year-round paganism of Athens by steering the negative of their rituals toward the positive of the resurrection. His reaction to their godless traditions provides some powerful lessons for us.
Finding Jesus Among the Jelly Beans
First of all, he had a broken heart over the fact that the people of Athens were missing the point. In Acts 17:16 Luke writes, “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” The great apostle wandered the streets of Athens leaving a trail of tears everywhere he went. These Greeks were worshipping created things rather than the Creator and it tore him up. He so longed for them to know the true God!
Are we broken-hearted over the fact that so many people in our communities don’t get the real meaning of Easter? When we go down the Easter dedicated and decorated aisles of our local grocery stores and all we see is chocolate bunnies, plastic eggs and jelly beans, does it make us stop and think about how the souls of those all around us have exchanged the real meaning of Easter for something delicious, fun and fattening? Beyond the tooth decay, souls are decaying in the midst of this myth-driven culture. May our hearts break for others as we long for them to meet the resurrected Christ!