The Bible is not a script for a funeral service, but it is the record of God always bringing life where we expected to find death. Everywhere it is the story of resurrection.
The Resurrection is the essential truth of Christianity. The apostle Paul wrote that if we can only hope for this life–in other words, if Christ’s resurrection and the bodily resurrection he promises are false–then we are the most pitiable beings ever (1 Corinthians 15:19). Surprisingly, the nineteenth-century nihilist Friedrich Neitzsche agrees with the apostle. For him, in the absence of a resurrected Christ, power alone matters. I mentioned my pastor’s comment last week: “The apostle Paul and Friedrich Neitzsche agree: If the Resurrection is true, it changes everything.”
Because they do not believe, the folks in Neitzche’s camp live the pitiful life Paul describes. Without the Resurrection, this world and human lives do not really matter at all. All our futile efforts to improve or preserve the world and its people verge on the ridiculous.
Those who do believe face no less a challenge. While Paul’s writing on this subject is riddled with hope, it is not a helpful fiction designed to produce comfort. If we believe the Resurrection is true, he writes, then what we say, what we do, even how we think should be transformed. Our belief in the risen Christ must penetrate every aspect of our lives. In essence, our core value should change from “Eat and drink for tomorrow we die” to “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
If this is true, why do so many who don’t believe in the Resurrection live as if they do, while those who do have hope live as if they will never rise? What I mean is, our nation and the world are full of activists, people who believe so deeply in human beings that they make great sacrifices to help others and improve the world. At the same time, Christians everywhere live in what Paul calls a “drunken stupor,” living the good life and ignoring the pain and suffering around them (1 Cor. 15:34). Why is this?
My immediate response to this question is shame, since I know my values have flipped at times. It’s easy for me to slip into this kind of thinking, to think more about my own wants than the needs of others. I find it equally easy at times to get caught up in my consumerist culture. All of which makes me afraid to ask the question “Does the Resurrection ‘show up’ in my life?” How has my faith changed how I live? Put more practically, if I believe, can American Idol really matter? Can the latest fashion, or magazine ads, or indeed most popular culture matter?
I’m spending Holy Week meditating on two questions, and I’m interested in your thoughts on them as well, Fearless Reader. First, if the above things do not matter, what does matter? And second, how should I demonstrate my belief in the Resurrection in my daily life?