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On this Good Friday I am reminded of the life and testimony of Oscar Romero, who is on the path to be made a saint in the Roman Catholic Church. As Archbishop of San Salvador he was seen as a social conservative who opposed liberation theology. This changed with the death of his friend—a priest who worked on behalf of the poor. This event pushed him to confront the corruption, violence, and poverty that gripped El Salvador during the 1970’s and 80’s. As he challenged the status quo, he made political and religious enemies. He openly called the military to stop killing their fellow citizens, and to submit to the higher call of God’s kingdom. On March 24, 1980, he was shot and killed as he celebrated Mass.

Romero offers an important example for the Christian church as we face important social and political issues. Globally, the church faces violence, war, and the displacement of millions of people from their homes. In this country, the church is confronted with poverty, the politics of immigration, and the aftermath of young people gunned down in schools. What Romero shows us is that the gospel is not partisan—it is not about being conservative or liberal—it’s about believing that Jesus Christ is our Lord and our Savior. On this Good Friday, the cross of Jesus Christ confronts the violence and hatred of this world. The cross confronts our inwardly turned way of life that causes division and hatred. Yes, the cross confronts our sin. However, the cross also confronts our inaction, our inability to get past the idols of our own political agendas, what Bonhoeffer calls “cheap grace”. Good Friday is not our “get out of jail free” card—it is the revelation of God’s love for the world, a love that is demonstrated in the suffering of Jesus. On the cross, we see God’s presence in the midst of our sin and violence, and we hear the call to follow. Today we hear the call to take up our cross, to enter into the love of God that changes us, transforms us, so we might enter into the suffering of others. Seeking justice, caring for the poor, and showing hospitality to the stranger is not a republican or democratic issue, and it’s not optional. Again and again scripture tells us that the mark of the Christian life, and the mark of the Christian community, is love of God that is demonstrated in the way we love our neighbor.

May we follow the example of soon to be Saint Oscar Romero, taking up our cross by entering into the suffering of our neighbors for the sake of our crucified Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

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