As Easter draws to an end for another year I have the chance to think about what it means to young people.
Unfortunately for many, like Christmas it has become about the receiving of gifts, but in here lies a valuable lesson.
Every year at Easter and Christmas gifts are bought and exchanged.
Having worked in the industry I'm only too aware about the criticism around packaging waste, wrapping paper and the humble or not so humble Easter Egg.
In the ever hostile consumer market, the manufacturers want you to pick their product and one of the ways to do this is to make the packaging big, bold and colourful.
Why? well would we buy an Egg with no packaging, in a brown paper bag, with a damaged box? Probably not... because as adults the packaging is important to us.
I read an article recently which suggested that in an anual poll of 11 eggs, on average less than 40% of an easter egg was the product, the rest is packaging.
Over the years, significant efforts have been made to use recyclable material, less plastic, more sustainable materials, but the boxes are still well turned out, shiny, colourful and attractive.
The question we have to ask ourselves is why is packaging so important to an adult, when the child really only cares about the chocolate? (I'm not even sure they care if it's egg shaped)
I remeber looking back as a child, and a relative once said to me "you don't want to go there... they've got people with dreadlocks", I remember having this clear vision of people walking around with some weapon called a dreadlock probably only available from backstreet martial arts shops. Looking back I realise how absurd this was, but this mentality is still being instilled in us through the media today. The message seems clear... anyone wearing a tracksuit, shellsuit, overly exposed gold jewellry, hooded tops, caps, leather jackets, goth clothes or generally anyone below the age of 25 should be avoided and treated as dangerous.
How many people fear walking past a group of young people, not from experience, but from a preconceived notion of what will happen?
This isn't a new thing however. In the Old Testament (Leviticus 13) advises the priests how to diagnose Leprosy, but the term can also be translated as a defiling skin disease. A rash, shiny spot ( a nightmare for teenagers no doubt) and a host of others had to be presented to the priest to determine if the person was to be quarantined. If it hadn't healed, the person was removed from the camp and await death or Gods Healing.
Could you imagine?
Having to live alone, losing your whole life, wife, children, relatives, job... all gone, until a priest deemed you fit to return.
Who would provide financial support for your family? what would happen to the children?
I once heard a minister preach that there were over 70 conditions which were considered defiling skin diseases.. I can't back this up, but I wonder what it would be like to live in such a time... if you had a rash, a boil, acne, a wart, psoriasis, where would the line be?
Would people look at you funny or perhaps not at all, perhaps question whether you've been to the priest, put a perimeter around you just in case? Excluded from the community..... just in case.
How many of us do the same today? Look upon a person, look at their clothes, their hair, their children, their vocabulary or general appearance and decide to put a perimiter up and cast our eyes away.
Jesus did it differently... in Mark 12:28-31 and Luke 10:25:37, we are told to love the lord our god with all our heart and to love our neighbour as ourselves, there are no commandments greater than these.
Not being content to just set the level, Jesus shows us how it's done.. keeping in mind Jesus was a Jew and followed the Jewish ceremonies, he must remain Ceremonialy Clean this would include avoiding contact with Lepers.
Matthew 8:1-2 shows us exactly this.. a man came to him... a leper, already deemed an outcast by the priests and the community, had such faith, that without fear of rejection, he approached a Jew, knelt before him and said "Lord if You are willing, You can make me clean"..
Jesus's response wasn't to look away, walk away or ignore him... he put out his hand, touched him and said "I am willing, be cleansed".... and the man was.
In the very next verse the man is told to return to the priest that he might be allowed to come home and offer his Ceremonial gift to god.
There are other examples.. the 10 lepers, the dead brought back to life, The New Testament is full of Jesus not playing it safe but seeking and working with the least the last and the lost.... never caring about the packaging.
The next time you encounter someone who's packaging isn't right, perhaps we should act like a child... discard the box, and the wrapper and seek what's inside..
Because that's what god sees in each of us, and as we are told in Genesis 1:27 ultimately we are all made in his image.