The kids and I learned about Ancient India in our History textbook last week, and our reading introduced us to a number of Eastern religions. As we read through the tenants of these belief systems, Charleston commented on how much they seemed to be getting right: Hinduism teaches the value of every soul; those who practice Jaimism take vows of honesty, faithfulness, and non-violence; Buddhists practice healthy non-attachment to earthly items. These are all noteworthy virtues compatible with Christian belief. But as Charleston and I went on to discuss, these religions are all missing something crucial: they leave out Jesus. And without Him, no amount of virtue is enough.

It’s Holy Week in the Christian calendar, a time for reflecting on Jesus’ final days on earth: His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, when He was hailed as a king; His Last Supper meal with His disciples, during which He proclaimed that His blood was to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins; His betrayal and arrest. Good Friday, when He hung on the cross, taking the full punishment for our sins, shedding His own blood that we may be made righteous. Easter Sunday, when the tomb was found empty and all creation rejoiced because death had been defeated! Each day within this Holy Week points to how different the Way of Jesus is from every other world religion.

Other religions may offer promising ideals and can even guide practitioners into positive practices and wholesome ways of living. But in every other religion, one must earn his or her own way to God through perfect adherence to a system of impossible rules; only Christianity offers a Heavenly Father who knew we could never achieve perfect righteousness and so, instead of demanding that we work our way to Him, chose to come down to US! Other religions offer systems of rights and wrongs, dos and dont’s; Christianity is NOT a system, but a relationship with a Lord and Savior whose love would lead Him to take on the humble form of a man, offer His own life for the redemption of His people, and suffer unfathomable pain out of love for His children.

Most significant of all: no other religion can offer an empty tomb! Without the resurrection, Christianity would not exist; it would merely be one among many religions in which a respected leader came to an unfortunate end. But as Christians we know that death was not the end: Jesus did not remain in the tomb, but He came back to life—our proof that Jesus is who He says He is and that he accomplished all that He said He would do. Because of the resurrection, we have been forgiven. Because of the resurrection, we are redeemed. Because of the resurrection, death is defeated and we have the promise of eternal life. Because of the resurrection, we can have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior who took the place of all our moralism to become our Way, Truth, and Life.

This Easter weekend, we will engage in the sorts of activities that religions around the world may enjoy: religious services, time spent with family, and fun traditions involving games and food. I pray that in the midst of this not-so-unusual activity, we can pause to reflect on The One who has made all the difference. Because of His life, we know we can have a personal relationship with Him. Because of His death, we have been forgiven and saved. Because of His resurrection we, too, have been given life. Praise the Lord that because of Jesus, Easter Sunday is not just another religious holiday. We can rejoice because He has risen indeed!

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