“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1Co 15:17-19, ESV)
Theologians and missiologists debate the distinctives between Christianity and other world religions as well as the place for other religions within orthodox Christianity. While there will certainly be elements that can and cannot be incorporated into Christianity, one thing is for certain: people have and will always be religious. This is something we as Christians can accept. People love religion. I suppose there are plenty of reasons for this being so. But I would suggest that one the primary reasons for the history and love of religion rests on the earthly benefit the particular religion produces. Now benefit is a relative term. While religion may give a person a positive regiment for discipline leading to a pleasing life, it can also produce a regiment of murder for the benefit of power. Benefit for me and benefit for you may differ. And we may differ on how that benefit may be achieved.
But what happens when religion is used in the latter sense? When religion is used as a means for control and power and dominance? Clearly, it is easy to criticize the use of religion in this way and begin to seek for a faith that supports life and benevolence. Right?
But wait. What about the reality that every faith, every religion must pass through? What about the one stumbling block every creed must be refined and defined within? What about the event which tests every epistemological and ontological debate, theory, or thesis? What about the final malignant moment which tests even the most benevolent of faiths? What about you…your faith…and your heart stopping. What about death?
Christian, what was the resurrection meant to inspire? What’s the benefit? You see, our lives now are more tangible today than they will be tomorrow. So, it naturally follows that we would place a greater emphasis on today. The Lord Jesus in Mt 6 supports such a concept. And since we have a pulse, sweat, and breath, we then focus on, well… living. Intuitively (or unconsciously), then, we make Christianity a regiment or discipline leading us to that end; that is, living. In fact, if you listen to the way Christians pray (and this may be why most are hesitant to pray out loud) you may quickly discover where they have place the significance of the resurrection–that it has its primary benefit in this life. Not that anyone would say this out loud, of course.
Now, Christianity is of value for this life. Good grief! Lord knows I’m grateful that I can’t remember who I was and the life I lived before He interrupted me! But are we to place the significance of our religion, of our faith, of the resurrection in this life? Is Christianity meant to move us or preserve us? Is Christianity primarily meant to activate us or secure us? Is Christianity primarily an activity or a sanctuary? Notice from the verses above, that Paul places the hope which the resurrection inspires and secures beyond this life; beyond other religions; beyond our grave; beyond our pulse, breath, doubt, inabilities, anxieties. If Christianity was only meant to bring us the benefits of religion in this life, Paul says we are worse off than any other person on the planet. Christianity, Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the faith FORGIVES SINS. Christianity, Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the faith FORGIVES SINS. Christianity, Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the faith FORGIVES SINS. Without out this essential component is view, your and my faith in Christ is futile and blasphemous (1Co 15:15). Without this reality and orthodoxy, Christianity is an impotent belief system with all its rules and earthly benefits which never passes beyond the test and scrutiny of death. Ultimately it offers no hope. Ever met someone who has resigned the idea of hope?
Yet IT IS this essential compnent that provides the most meaning and purpose to this monent, as my fingers touch these keys and as the breath issues from my nose, as my faces rises to smile.
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
(1Co 15:55, ESV)
No conference will enable you to meet with empathy the eyes of the Apostle Paul as his body languishes and as his souls soars in jail…
No sermon will inform you beyond activism to conviction…
No system will conquer your limitations…your fragility…your dependency…
Only baptism in death…
Only newness of life…
Only reconciliation with God…
Only Christ can teach you the joy of the Apostle Paul…
Only Christ and the power of his resurrection will see you beyond the grave, beyond hopelessness, so that in this life you may truly, more than anyone…….live.
“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…” (Php 3:10, ESV)
“I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me own…” (Php 3:12)
“I press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Php 3:14, ESV)
Oh Lord I’m speechless..
Break me! Crack open this hell,
So I can rest and live in the security of your resurrection.
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10, ESV)