Easter for Harvey Weinstein?
APRIL 1, 2020
I love Easter for a lot of reasons.
One of them is that unbelievers haven’t co-opted it yet…and they don’t want to. They already co-opted Christmas. After all, Christmas is about a baby and everybody loves babies. Christmas has a warm and tender feeling. It’s easy to sing music, hang decorations, and turn that warm feeling into a commercial enterprise or a party. It’s harder with Easter.
It’s not that they haven’t tried with the Easter bunny, bonnets, flowers, fluff, and spring sales…but the corpse keeps getting in the way. Frankly, corpses don’t sell product. Easter is about resurrection but, in order to have a resurrection, you first need a dead body. So for the most part they have left us alone about Easter.
If they only knew…
Actually, it hasn’t been so long ago that I didn’t care if they knew or not.
A number of years ago I preached a sermon at Perimeter Church in Atlanta and opened it with, “Millions of people are going to hell and I don’t give a rip. I don’t even know their names.” That comment quickly spread through some Christian circles, and my “I don’t give a rip” became “I don’t give a damn.” I used to try and correct that mistake, but eventually gave up. So if you hear I said that I didn’t give a damn, I didn’t say that. I thought it…but that doesn’t count.
In that sermon I said that I wasn’t bragging, but confessing, and asked the congregation to pray for me. They did. I suspect they asked Jesus to supernaturally grant me tears, love, and compassion in those places where Jesus wept, loved, and had compassion. Well, God answered their prayers. Now I care and care deeply. In fact, sometimes I care so much that I wish I didn’t. This Christian thing would be a lot easier if I didn’t care.
The problem is that most of us don’t care a lot. And the problem with not caring is that caring doesn’t work like a faucet that you can turn off and on at will. If you’ve seen those television ads with cold, shivering, and hungry dogs, soft music, and a plea for funds to save them from the cold and hunger, then you’ve seen manipulation on steroids focused on creating guilt. There is a difference, though, between feeling guilty and having compassion. Most of us run on guilt. That’s not all bad because the biblical purpose of guilt is to drive us to the only One who can forgive and love us. But when guilt is used to create compassion, it just doesn’t work. Even if it does seem to create something that looks like compassion, that simply doesn’t last very long.
This Easter if you don’t care about people who don’t “get” Easter, don’t pretend that you do. Faking compassion is worse than not having compassion at all. You can’t fix it any more than you can save yourself from drowning by swimming. If you’re drowning, the problem is that you can’t swim…and if you could swim, then you wouldn’t be drowning. In fact, almost everything of any biblical importance is a gift from God. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).
At the risk of being self-righteous, let me share some of the supernatural parameters of my Easter compassion. I will repent later of my self-righteousness. (“Sin now, repent later.”)
That works for me, but evidently not for Jesus. He suggested that I tell you the truth. Okay, sometimes I still don’t care. Sometimes I just want to “let the dead bury the dead.” Sometimes I still don’t give a rip…although I really do care more than I used to. So it’s kind of a “surprising faithfulness” in that I’m always blindsided by my tears.
When Jesus saw the crowds “he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). I’ve hung out with Jesus for a long time now and, believe it or not, I’m increasingly seeing people through his eyes and feeling what he feels.
This morning I read a story about the disgraced Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, who was found guilty of rape and sexual assault. While I haven’t followed his trial very closely, I do know that Weinstein isn’t someone I want to have a beer with…even if I drank beer. The story I read said that Weinstein, after his trial, experienced heart pain and was taken to the hospital. In what was almost a side comment, the story added that Weinstein was very afraid of death. Do you know what I felt? “Well Harvey, you ought to be afraid…very afraid”? No. “After what you’ve done to those women, if you die, you’re getting what you deserve”? No. “You’re lost for all of eternity and that’s not long enough”? No, no, no.
Believe it or not, I felt compassion for Harvey Weinstein, a wave of sadness, because he had no hope. Nobody had told him about Jesus and Easter, and (can you believe this?) I had this desire to tell him. I wanted to tell him that death had died. I wanted to tell him that Jesus had gotten out of a grave and said we could too. I wanted to tell him about the resurrection. I hope somebody does.
Some other things come to mind. Not only did the court find Harvey Weinstein guilty…God did too. The story I read quoted Weinstein as saying, after the jury returned its guilty verdict, “But I’m innocent. I’m innocent. How can this happen in America?” I wanted to say, “Are you a fruitcake? You keep saying that, and you’ll keep being lost, afraid, and lonely. Jesus could fix that if you just said, ‘I’m guilty and I need forgiveness.’” I would tell Weinstein that Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified him and then he died to make that possible. But in order to get the cure, you have to face the disease. When you go to the resurrected Christ, he will always forgive no matter what you’ve done. But you do have to ask, and Weinstein probably won’t ask. That makes me very sad.
I would also ask Harvey Weinstein, “Do you remember the story of Jesus and the prostitute?” He probably wouldn’t, so I would have to tell him the story from Luke 7 about the prostitute who crashed the Pharisee’s dinner party so she could get to Jesus. I would tell him that her sins were sexual too and I would point out that Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many are forgiven” (Luke 7:47). Weinstein would probably brush it off, thinking that what I said was irrelevant. I find that so sad.
And then there’s one other thing. Harvey Weinstein is probably the most hated person in America with the possible exception of Jeffrey Epstein and he’s dead. I would tell Weinstein that his problem is that he has confused lust with love and they’re not the same. I might quote John 3:16, adding his name, “God so loved Harvey Weinstein that he gave his only Son.” I would tell Weinstein that, while he isn’t loved by very many people, if he ran to Jesus, Jesus would love him. Maybe it’s my cynicism, but I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance in a hot place that Weinstein will go anywhere but jail…and certainly not to Jesus. Again, that’s so sad I can hardly stand it.
Are you crazy? You’re going to get such criticism! What are you thinking with this Harvey Weinstein thing?
I remember after Jim Bakker fell, my friend, Tony Campolo, preached a sermon titled, “I Am Jim Bakker.” I ran into Tony and his wife, Peggy, shortly after he had preached that sermon and kidded him about it. Peggy said, “I told him he was crazy. Now everybody thinks my husband is screwing around.”
No, I’m not crazy. There’s no way I’ll preach a sermon titled, “I Am Harvey Weinstein” or even suggest something like that here. But then death sometimes concerns me, I’m a great sinner, and I have a need to be loved as much as anybody.
That’s the point of Easter, isn’t it? On Good Friday, Jesus died for people like Harvey Weinstein. He loved people like Harvey Weinstein. And then Jesus, a dead man, got out of his grave to make sure that people like Harvey Weinstein could live free, forgiven, and forever.
He is risen!
That changes everything.
Even how Christians should think of Harvey Weinstein.
Jesus told me to remind you.