Raising: the Question : Is my life shaped by the resurrection?

Paul based his life –and went to his death– on a single powerful, life-changing premise, that Christ was raised from the dead.

In one letter (1 Cor 15), he pointed out in detail the implications of that premise. Christianity was not just a life-style, but a total commitment to an unseen future.  “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. . . .”

And he then takes the thought further, to analyse the effects of that belief. “Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” . . . But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Paul is saying, in effect, why bother to live like this if there were no resurrection?  You think we live like this for the fun of it?  Why, it’s only the fact of the resurrection that makes this way of living possible.

So, I willingly face all these different kinds of dangers, Paul says. They come continually: “On frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles in the city… in the wilderness, danger… at sea, danger from false brothers.”  (2 Corinthians 11).

In fact, “I die every day.” This relates to Jesus’s saying in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself  and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Paul had to steel himself every single day to follow the path of the cross that Jesus took. Every day he had to choose to put Christ first.  No day was without the death of some desire or personal wish.

It recalls that lovely song: “All of my ambitions, hopes and dreams, I surrender these into your hands.”

But all this is nothing, if I might “gain Christ.” In other words, only the resurrection with Christ and the joy of eternity can make sense out of this present suffering.

If death were the end of the matter, he says, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” This doesn’t mean: Let’s all become gluttons and drunkards. They are pitiable too—with or without the resurrection. He means: If there is no resurrection, the only life that makes sense is a life-long attempt to maximize earthly pleasures.

But that is not what Paul chooses. He chooses the hard way, because he chooses obedience. When Ananias came to him at his conversion with the words from the Lord Jesus, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” ( Acts 9:16), Paul accepted this as part of his call.

But what was the source of this radical obedience? The answer is given in 1 Corinthians 15:20: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” In other words, Christ was raised, and I will be raised with him. Therefore, nothing suffered for Jesus is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The hope of the resurrection radically changed the way Paul lived. It freed him from materialism and consumerism. It gave him the power to go without things that many people feel they must have in this life. For example, though he had the right to marry (1 Corinthians 9:5), he renounced that pleasure because he was called to live differently. This he did because of the resurrection.

This is the way Jesus said the hope of the resurrection is supposed to change our behaviour. For example, he told us to invite to our homes people who cannot pay us back in this life. How are we to be motivated to do this? “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:14).

This is a radical call for us to look hard at the way we live now to see if we are shaped by the hope of the resurrection. Do we make decisions on the basis of gain in this world or gain in the next? Do we take risks for love’s sake that can only be explained as wise if there is a resurrection?

Do we lose heart when our bodies give way to the aging process, and we have to admit that we will never do certain things again. Or do we look to the resurrection and take heart?

We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:16).

 

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