He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! The glorious good news of His Resurrection is the great “game changer” which inserts the New Creation into the present evil age. We must recognize that “the world is passing away with all of its desires” (I John 2:17). It is appropriate to lament that our culture is rapidly moving into a post-Christian phase. There are ample signs that this is true. In fact, the shift is actually far more profound than merely listing off things like “they don’t pray in schools anymore” or “same sex marriage is now legal in all 50 states.” Those kind of examples (and many more could be given) actually tend to underestimate the profound shift which is taking place. What are some of the deeper losses we are experiencing and how might the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the inbreaking of the New Creation make a profound difference? Let me point out a few examples.
First, there is a growing lack of civility in public discourse. The Christian ethic (when properly followed) provides the perfect paradigm for public discourse. On the one hand, we are formed and guided by firm convictions. On the other hand, Jesus commands his followers to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. This is the basic foundation for a civil discourse. It is the Resurrection which galvanizes us with the power and grace to love our enemies. We can have compassion on a world which only knows the dissonant clangs of anger and “zero sum” politics, because we are listening to a deeper song and a more compelling melody.
Second, there is a growing loss of the distinction between humility and weakness. In the Christian ethic, humility is not a weakness, but a sign of inner strength. Strength is also upheld by accountability, another strong Christian ethic. Today, all acts of humility are interpreted as weakness and strength is only understood through raw power. This is in sharp contrast to the ethic of Jesus, which demonstrates that “my power is made perfect in weakness” and his greatest power is exhibited through the weakness and vulnerability of the cross. The very fact that the Resurrection of Jesus only comes through the portal of weakness and suffering should profoundly affect our interactions in the world. We should embody both humility and strength simultaneously.
Third, there is growing fear and racial unrest in America. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister, and the civil rights movement flourished because it was built on the foundation of Christian values. Great strides have been made over the last several decades. However, we are now seeing a rise in racial unrest. Reconciliation lies at the heart of the gospel. The gospel always pushes us out of “zero sum” games where one group’s loss is another group’s gain. In the years following the meltdown of the former Yugoslavia into what became known as Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, I made several trips to that part of the world for learning and teaching. I discovered that Serbs and Croats had lived side by side for generations, but the collapse of the Christian worldview led to one of the worst episodes of ethnic violence in history. It is there that the phrase “ethnic cleansing” would be coined.
What does all this mean for us as Christians? It means that the United States is very likely headed into a period of deepened conflict, ethnic hatred, and divisive social life. The fabric which once held our social contract together has now become threadbare. I realize that we have always had some holes in our social garment. But, it is clear that we are in a more vulnerable place as a culture. But, what a wonderful opportunity this is for Christian witness! The good news of the Resurrection is that Christians have the wonderful opportunity to “create culture.” We are the ones called to usher the glorious New Creation into the present. We must show people how to forgive and to live in reconciliation. We must exhibit civility in all our discourse. We must remember the power of humility and the nature of true strength. We must be those who take the first step in loving our enemies and doing good to those who persecute us. The world may not be able to say it, but they are searching and crying out for salvation.
This is the season when we recognize how profoundly all is changed because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are the people of the Risen Lord. Jesus Christ has overturned all the world’s darkness. His great “YES” is greater than all the ways this world shouts “NO” to Him. The worst thing we could ever do to God was to nail him to a cross. Yet God took even that and turned it into a testimony of His love and grace. He nailed our sins to that cross and is now the risen reigning Lord. May we go forth as ambassadors of peace and reconciliation. May we boldly proclaim through word and deed the centrality of Jesus Christ and His glorious resurrection!
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