One of the aspects of pop evangelicalism that has haunted me the most these days has been a lack of understanding of the resurrection, what it means, its power and significance. Still, I will never forget that day at Calvary Kids Club when a little boy I had been mentoring was shocked to hear that Jesus was returning to earth and that our ultimate destiny was to rule with him on earth. No, we were not destined for heaven, but a new creation. He ran frantically around the classroom telling everyone he could think of that Jesus was coming back and so were we! If only we could all catch that same spark.
And yet something sinks within me when I get blank, perhaps disbelieving stares from adult evangelicals when I tell them the hope of the Christian faith is not going to heaven, but being resurrected and that Jesus’ resurrection was also meant to be the first of many. It would seem that “We believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come…” does not ring a bell. Rather hope is framed in terms of a past event that enabled a future one: going to heaven or hell. Worse yet, I have come to see that many of us really do not realize that what we do today, in the here and now has any cosmological significance nor connection with the resurrection.
No! What we do today and tomorrow matters infinitely. Jesus came to give us abundant life. He embodied human life and human destiny so that we could live as we were meant to live as image bearers of God, God's representatives on earth. We are meant to represent a new kingdom and a new society, now. God’s reality appears like colors breaking into a world that sees in black and white. He is all around us if we would only have eyes to see him. Evil in many ways is a failure and refusal to see. It blinds itself in spirals of hopelessness and futility. If we have sworn our allegiance to Christ and pledge to live towards different goals--love out of our faith--then how on earth can we think what we do now does not matter? How can we continue doing evil in the name of survival, fear, greed, status or out of selfishness? We can't.
We worship a God of self-sacrifice and humility. We worship a God who was betrayed, slandered, attributed to be in league with the devil, used as a demented slur against an ethnic minority (King of the Jews), and killed for becoming like us so that we could become like him in character and in his resurrected body. And this Jesus did all of this for his enemies. He has told us to follow the same path so that in dying we can ironically, live.
It may be that there is a lot of moral "grey" when it comes to many "what if" situations. But really, many of us do know what it means not to live selfishly, give preference to one another and to love enemies the way the Good Samaritan did (note that the example of goodness Jesus used was an offensive enemy/outcast). And what we do now is a sign pointing towards and part of a process of physical resurrection. New creation means the transformation of character and the body of God's representatives on earth and with them, those around them and all of creation. We get to participate in this process now as we look towards our formational completion climaxing in our resurrection and the full arrival of a new political reality premised on love in Christ. We get to be little lights in a world of night beckoning others to wake up and also live as though it were day.
This Easter season, rekindle or begin an epic journey to live as an agent of God's resurrection at work, church, with family, friends & enemies. Make friends with those who are alone, hated or sick, those who cannot return favors whether socially or otherwise. Be kind when slandered not returning evil with evil. Seek justice for yourself and others (justice and forgiveness are not opposed!). Risk. Remember the elderly. Resist evil within and from without. Love in multifaceted, individual and unique ways the way Jesus loved bringing a little color to a world trapped in either/or.
Don't be slaves of self-love, masks, and idols. Throw it all out and be ambassadors, warriors, and family of God.
"But you aren’t self-centered. Instead, you are in the Spirit, if in fact God’s Spirit lives in you. If anyone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, they don’t belong to him. If Christ is in you, the Spirit is your life because of God’s righteousness, but the body is dead because of sin. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your human bodies also, through his Spirit that lives in you.
So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live. All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. 17 But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him." -Romans 8:9-17