Following my sermon on Friday in chapel, one of my very insightful friends approached me and asked, “So what does it mean to live in light of the resurrection story?” He said I laid the foundation of this idea in a wonderful manner, but I was lacking in regards to implications (he did grant me grace considering my time constraints). Nevertheless, I wanted to comment on the implications of the resurrection story a bit more. We may know that we need to embody the resurrection, but how is that played out? (I think this is the biggest difference between being merely a theologian and a pastor. The theologian does not need to address the practical side of a concept; the pastor MUST).
There are several different ways that I want to explore this without writing an exegesis on each. First, it comes back to the idea of being human. When the resurrection is a part of us, we do not elevate others to a position of divinity (i.e., that they will fulfill us, or meet all our needs, or that our happiness stems from this relationship), nor do we desecrate them (i.e., take away their dignity, make them sub-human, treat them as somebody lower than ourselves). This may be one of the reasons that servant-hood is so central in the New Testament. When we serve somebody, we are putting them above ourselves, not to the point that we are making them a god, but to the extend that we are creating a space in which they are able to be themselves, to be human. When we serve others, we bring the humanity out of them. Henri Nouwen writes, “We cannot change the world by a new plan, project or idea. We cannot even change other people by our convictions, stories, advice and proposals, but we can offer a space where people are encouraged to disarm themselves, to lay aside their occupations and preoccupations and to listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in their own centre.”
The second and third points that I wanted to raise could be grouped together into one. Although connected, they each may hold some distinct ways of thinking about how to live the resurrection. The first stems from the work of the apostle Paul. In his writings, the reader will find lists of virtues and vices. I do not think it would be unfair to classify the vices as the “works of the flesh” and the virtues as the “fruit of the Spirit”. When Paul refers to the flesh, he is not simply talking about the human body. Rather, he is talking of the old way of life, the pre-resurrection story. The way of life before Jesus. The way of life dictated by our own desires and lusts. The way of life where we elevate ourselves to gods. We me-myself-and-I are more important than you. The fruit of the Spirit, the virtues that Paul discusses, embody the world that is to come. The world where God reigns over all. The world that we as Christians hope for and dream about. I think this is a fitting bridge into the third way. But instead of applying the world to come only in terms of our relationships with other humans, N.T. Wright suggests that it goes beyond this.
The world of space, time, and matter is where parliaments, city councils, neighborhood watch groups, and everything in between are set up and run for the benefit of the wider community, the community where anarchy means that bullies will always win, where the weak and vulnerable will always need protecting . . . . And the church that is renewed by the message of Jesus’ resurrection must be the church that goes to work precisely in that space, time, and matter and claims it in advance as the place of God’s kingdom, of Jesus’s lordship, of the power of the Spirit.
For Wright, the resurrection story also affects how we engage with our culture – institutions, artifacts, values, norms, etc. The resurrection story isn’t just about living good lives resembling the world to come, it is about transforming the greater world as we know it to reflect the coming world, while keeping in mind that we are not bringing the kingdom of God. It is only by God’s grace that any of this is able to occur. Thus, the resurrection story is not just about making humans more human, but also allowing all of creation to fulfill what God created it to be.
One last thing in this already superfluous post. Here is a link to a Pete Rollins blog post and his view of living in light of the resurrection.