Because he bled and died,Wishing you and yours a joyless, grave,
We're all choked up inside.
It's not a lovely day,
But I still hope you're okay.
and yet oddly hopeful Good Friday.
There is simply no way for a culture devoted to lightweight enjoyment and superficial relationships to come to terms with Good Friday. It is, in a sense, the last bulwark of genuine Christian spirituality against the sea of pop religion that has overwhelmed the American churches. This is our day. Madison Avenue, Hollywood, and Nashville can't take it away from us because they have no idea what to do with it.Yet this day represents the central mystery in the religion that many want to claim as America's own. Not only did God become a mortal man, Christianity maintains, but he went all the way through with it, "even unto death." And not just any death: the Son of God died unjustly at the hands of a worldwide empire that used every means at its disposal to suppress insurgents. A death by torture, a death of shame, a death of horror.Nor was it solely that, we claim, one more crucifixion among so many hundreds. We say God took on this death in order to give the world life. We say God knew suffering and tragedy so that we might never more feel that we suffer alone. We say God washed away our sins in the blood of him who was God made flesh.There is no greeting card, no trinket, no wrapping paper to celebrate that. Here grief and giving, loss and love, sorrow and salvation mingle in a way that calls forth the most penetrating efforts of human art and intellect to portray and understand. Here is a mystery that is profound beyond cheapening, beyond compromising. It is our day, beyond any culture's ability to absorb and control.Good Friday is an enduring sign of Christianity's maladjustment to the world. Jesus died as the ultimate outsider to power, success, honor, and prosperity. Every time we try to make our religion somehow compatible with those values-that is to say, every day we live this human life-the cross of Good Friday will stand, in its solemnity, its poverty, and its grief, as the final roadblock to our desire to be conformed.Good Friday also keeps us mindful of the ultimately paradoxical nature of Christian faith. This day of betrayal and death and grief commemorates what we believe to be our source of life and joy. Day-to-day culture thrives on simple explanations, straightforward accounts. Jesus' claim that "whoever loses their life will save it" (Mark 8:35) makes no sense in that culture, and Good Friday is a lasting rebuke to our desire to dumb down God's ways to the level of our security and comfort.
Good Friday keeps me honest in the world. It's a day when I can't simply be an American consumer, when I can't just walk down the street and be one of the oblivious crowd, busy but satisfied with my own goals and values. It points me toward another reality, a painful yet lifegiving reality, the reality of God. It wakes me up. It reminds me that if I, like the apostle Paul, am "always carrying Jesus' dying around in my body" (2 Corinthians 4:10), then there must be something of Good Friday in every day.