Where Do You Stand?
I was having a conversation with my middle son last night after he watched a video about the infamous case of the Scottsboro Boys.
The Scottsboro Boys were nine black teenagers who were falsely accused of the sexual assault of two white women on a train in Scottsboro Alabama in 1931.
None of the young men had met before then, but all of them were tried together and then sent to prison for most of their lives. They all experienced horrible trauma as a result, and most of them died at an early age.
My son was flabbergasted that such a thing could have happened, but I assured him that it was just one of the hundreds of cases like it that occurred in the United States from the early to mid 20th century.
I also told him that most of the same people who participated or applauded such things back then went on to raise children who would later scream, spit and beat on black children who were integrating "white" schools in the 1950s and 1960s.
And many of those people would go on to raise children who carried that bigotry into the 1980s, and beyond, and so it goes into the 21st century.
I told him that the saddest thing of all was that most of the members of these generations of people considered themselves God-fearing, churchgoing, Bible-believing folk.
"How could they sleep at night?" my son asked me. "They thought they were righteous," I told him.
In the end, our conversation got me thinking about Holy Week and the "blameless" religious people who wrongly accused Jesus, subjected him to a mock trial, horrible torture, and then eventually had him executed.
The religious leaders who sent Jesus to his death hid behind their religiosity, twisted Scripture, manipulated the minds of their followers, and then presumably went to bed at night feeling righteous and favored by God for "holding the line" when it came to their beliefs.
Dorothy Sayers once wrote:
Some people's blameless lives are to blame for a great deal.
As we journey through Holy Week it's important for us to recognize ourselves in the story of Christ's Passion, and to ask ourselves: "Which crowd am I standing with when it comes to things that matter to God?"
You see, Jesus was accused and executed because he called out the "blameless" religious types for their hypocrisy.
He called them out on all the ways they chose religion over relationships--with both God and others. And he held up a mirror to show them their complicity with injustice and oppression.
Do we find ourselves standing with them?
Or maybe we see ourselves standing with the fickle crowds who turned on him when they discovered he wasn't the Messiah they were looking for... Or the disciples who ran away and denied him when their expectations weren't met...
It's a hard thing to admit, but most of us have stood with all of these groups at one point in time or another.
Holy Week gives us the chance to live differently, though.
We can step away from those crowds and follow closely to Christ, no matter where it leads us. We can let go of all of the religiosity that more often than not gets in the way of fully following Jesus. We can die to it, in fact.
May you find the courage to journey with Jesus this week and immerse yourself in the story of his Passion. May you let go of your desire to be blameless, and walk with him on the path to the Cross.
May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.