Living for the risen Christ

Three years ago I wrote an article entitled “Re-thinking resurrection” for Sight Magazine. I thought I might reproduce parts of it here (slightly edited) at this Easter season.

Living for the risen Christ

Indeed resurrection signifies the future and ultimate reign of God. But this future hope is also absolutely important for our life in the present. After a long chapter speaking on the resurrection, Paul concludes, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15: 58) In other words, in view of the hope of the future resurrection, we are exhorted to live for Christ here and now in our daily life.

But living for Christ does mean an alternative orientation of life that lives out his lordship. The Gospel was first preached within the Roman Empire, where Caesar was to be known to be the lord of all. If the early church preached a god who only ruled in heaven and that his followers’ hope was to live in heavenly bliss, then Caesar would have no problems with them. Such a god would pose no threat to Caesar, nor his Empire. But to say that Jesus is a living resurrected Lord (who has been raised after dying on a Roman cross) would pose a threat to Caesar’s claim of lordship. This Son of the Creator God is not dead but is alive. He will return to judge the world with justice. As far as his followers are concerned, Jesus is the true Lord, and Caesar isn’t. The message of Christ’s supreme lordship came to a head later on in Revelation, where we find that the church was severely persecuted by Rome.

If Christianity is about going to heaven and that in the meantime Christians are to live like the rest of the world, make money for pleasure, and build ‘empires’ that consist of excess material possessions, promising careers and earthly glory, then the world has no problems with us. If the resurrection is only for our benefits in the future life and has nothing to do with how we live now, then the world will not notice us.

But if the Christian faith is about submitting to the risen Lord in every decision we make, then people will be interested in the reasons why we believe. If the hope of resurrection means that we want to follow Jesus’ way of life by living simply, caring for the poor, and standing in solidarity with the socially and economically disadvantaged, then our lives radiate the love of Christ (even though this rather radical lifestyle may sound silly for some people). If our way of life is one that defies the power of the ‘empire of consumerism’ and the ‘empire of self-centredness,’ then people will see that we are a community loyal to Christ and not the value system of this world.

No death, no resurrection

Paul says in Romans 8:17, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs; heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Here the apostle is saying that in order to share in the glory of Christ, we must be prepared to share (at least a measure of) his suffering. Jesus was raised to life, but first he had to suffer and die. Here Paul calls us to follow Jesus’ way of life and live sacrificially as we look forward to our resurrection.

(The original version at Sight can be found here.)

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