Monday, April 13, 2009

And if that be true ...

Yesterday in church, my pastor made a reference to black swans in Australia. Up until the the time that Westerners set foot on that island in the 1700s it was assumed that swans were by definition white, so finding black swans caused zoologists to rethink everything they had previously believed about the species. He was making the point that the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which most of the church celebrated yesterday (Orthodox Christians will do so next week) "changed everything."

I agree, but I don't think much of the church understands that. And I think that's because we haven't fully grasped the implications of the astonishing miracle that He nevertheless prophesied when He was here on earth.

I say that because of the way the "gospel" has often been preached in this country. Too often it's a reference to "fire insurance" -- that "accepting Jesus Christ as 'personal savior'" (a phrase I now know is nowhere found in the Scriptures) is primarily a way to avoid eternal judgment. I would go so far to say that He didn't necessarily need to die for that to happen.

Part of that, of course, has to do with His use of the phrase "born again" in John 3 in his conversation with the esteemed Pharisee Nicodemus; we've constructed an entire theology around that phrase. (I did use it for a time after I became a Christian but never really liked it.) However, when He used it He wasn't necessarily talking about the afterlife; rather, His focus was on what God was doing on the here and now.

You see, while God sent Jesus to earth to pay for the sin of mankind, His greater redemptive purpose was to separate a people for Himself that would live by alternative, Kingdom values and thus glorify Him. After all, that's why he brought ancient Israel into existence (but it got so caught up in the minutiae of the Law that it generally forgot the One Who gave it and its ultimate function).

So, what does that have to do with the truth of the resurrection? I'm convinced that, if we understood its ramifications, Christians would avoid much of the behavior we engage in now. We wouldn't have all these independent megachurches, especially in the suburbs, to preach a Jesus more concerned with our "felt needs" and escaping the hard truth about our sin, both personal and corporate. We wouldn't have to address our divisions of color, culture and class because, in the Kingdom, they wouldn't exist. We wouldn't worry about maintaining our traditions, which would be lost in the light of the Son. We wouldn't need to impose our "morality" on others; our lives would suffice to show the world, "You guys have missed the boat." (Persecution will come only then, but so what?)

Most importantly, we wouldn't say "Thus saith the LORD" unless we know full well He did. And we would remember something that I first heard in a 12-Step recovery program in 1983, "The first thing you need to know about God is that you ain't!"

In short, we need to regain a sense of humility, that we exist for Him and not He for us. Because people have risen from the dead only by His hand, He alone holds the key to life. And also life the way it should be.

No comments: