What Good Friday Means for Egyptian Christians
Missions | Serve Director
All of us were devastated to hear of the bombings of two Egyptian churches last week during their Palm Sunday services. It is in the light of these acts of unrelenting violence that we stand in prayer and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and with all.
Incredibly, five days later on Good Friday morning Egyptian Copts made their way back to church for one of the most important moments in the Christian calendar. The poignant and terrible irony can hardly escape notice when we see the image of those faithful Christians gathering to remember the One who gave his life that they might find theirs. It is an image that ought to humble and challenge us.
I find myself asking: How it is that these people, in the wake of attempts on their lives and the life of their community, find courage enough to go back to church? By what courage and conviction do they decide that, despite all that has happened, they need to be in the fellowship of God and one another? And on this of all days: the day that most potently represents the reality of death, the breadth of brokenness, the absurd evil of the world that two thousand years ago pinned Jesus to a cross and five days ago blew up two crowds of people.
It’s important for us to ask, because perhaps we too made our way to church this Good Friday, and perhaps despite our best efforts, we brought with us the weight of our own weeks. A difficult season at work or out of work, a difficult family life, an unexpected loss: I suspect at times we all try to leave the broken pieces of our lives in the church foyer, in the hope that we might find, even for an hour and fifteen, space and sanctuary enough to forget about it all and to simply be.
I suspect at times we all try to leave the broken pieces of our lives in the church foyer...
We try to leave the world outside – all the disorder and mess of it, all the unanswered brokenness of it. But sometimes the world outside the church cannot be kept outside. Sometimes it seeps in – all the restless disorder of our lives – and we find no rest in the sanctuary. All of us know how that feels, at one time or another. But only very few will ever know how it feels when the world crashes in with the din of an explosion, ripping the safe sanctity of our walls wide open to the world outside.
Doubtless many of us would run away and never come back. When the world crashes in on our lives, the first fatality is often our faith. And doubtless many faithful Copts this week asked: What hope and peace can I now find in the church, the place that the world crashed in around me?
But then I see the image of countless Christians making their way back into church this Good Friday, declaring on the day of Jesus’ crucifixion that they are “not afraid of death.” What can possibly make sense of why their faith didn’t stay buried in the rubble, but endured, was resurrected, and led them back into church?
Perhaps only the meaning of Good Friday can make sense of it.
That as Jesus-followers, the only way we have ever known how to respond to the violence and unrest in the world is to go to the cross. The only way we know how to confront brokenness is to go to the broken body of our King as we find him on Good Friday, busy stitching the world back together.
The only way we know how to confront brokenness is to go to the
broken body of our King as we find him on Good Friday...
This week we parade into church for Easter, sometimes scarcely aware of the gravity of what we do. We bring our lives and our stories with us, and we dare not leave them at the door, because over the threshold we find the cross, waiting to take on all the broken pieces and make them new.
And this is why our friends in Egypt, having known the worst of the world, make their journey to the cross. This is why they can declare that they are not afraid of death, because this is the day that death died. Because this day families are put back together, wrong is reconciled, brokenness mended; this day we learn to forgive. This day God and the world meet, a broken present intersects with its hopeful future, and because of that even the worst of all days can be called Good.
The act of remembering what that means for us, and for the whole world, is what Good Friday is all about.