I love Easter, yet amidst the alleluias I grieve when reminded how appalling people can be. Ten years ago, at Easter, a man claiming to be a Mad River Valley resident stranded in Los Angeles received financial assistance from me through the Valley’s Good Neighbor Fund. I also mentioned to him I’d soon be on vacation. With that information, he phoned the Northfield Church, claimed to be me, and told two kind souls that while on vacation in LA I’d been robbed and beaten. They sent him $1400 and we became victims of identity fraud. My awareness of human sinfulness intensified, knowing someone might steal from a charity, impersonate another for personal gain, cause emotional distress.
We wondered whether we were wrong to help. Naturally, we created safeguards from future scams. Yet the bottom line for us was the answer to the question: If we hadn’t sent the money to this person claiming to be in need, then discovered it was legitimate, could we have lived with it? We could not. So, we erred on the side of compassion.
This world, filled with greed, hatred, and desperation can threaten to steal our identities. Beyond a criminal’s misuse of our credit cards, social security number, or driver’s license, our identity as followers of Christ is also vulnerable to theft. Under the strain of the world’s evils we may lose grasp hold of our identity as Easter people.
Those who thought they were helping me lived out their call to compassionate care. Rejecting this plea for help — false as it was — would have meant giving up their identities as Jesus’ disciples. Still tasting bitterness, I’m aware my heart could even now harden. Yet I know our challenge is to live with the vulnerability required of those who desire to be an Easter people.
Easter people aren’t immune to pain, suffering, and death. But they live in faith that these don’t have the final word. The tomb is real but the promise is that the stone will be rolled away. My prayer is that we’ll continue to love as an Easter people — acutely aware of the risk in loving as Jesus did, yet blessed by knowing that there are those who’d care for us in our need and that our ability to do the same goes a long way toward making the Easter promise a present reality.