If you were pressed to find one image that encapsulates Christianity, most people would probably think of the cross. The cross is central to almost every church sanctuary in America, and we have adopted it as the center of our faith.
And yet, while the cross is certainly a central theme in the story of how God saves us, it is one aspect of a greater story.
Yes, Jesus died for our sins. But even more than that, He lived—that we might live with Him. And Christ’s resurrection is the inaugural event of the new creation. Paul even goes so far as to say in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
So if the resurrection is the real crux of our faith, what does it mean to live in light of the resurrection?
In his book Surprised by Hope, N.T. Wright notes, “The point of the resurrection … is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die … What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future.”
In other words, the resurrection changes everything. The Kingdom of God is here and yet it is coming. God has chosen His resurrection people to be change agents in their culture; to proclaim this coming Kingdom through how they live, relate and work.
Living as resurrection agents bringing in the new Kingdom may seem like a high task for most of us who are in the thick of jobs, family, bills and endless to-do lists. But there are a few ways we can make the intentional but simple choice to proclaim the coming Kingdom of God.
Repent during the Lenten Season
Repentance and grief is a strange first step for living in light of the resurrection, but an important one nonetheless. Because to truly rejoice in our new life, we must first understand our own mortality and need for grace.
The season of Lent can lead us in this process of reflection on our sins. Though it may be a painful step to living life in light of the resurrection, it is also an opportunity to draw on God’s power for transformation. This is a chance to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, examine our lives and how the decisions we make affect others. Humbly asking for forgiveness can be very powerful in opening relational doors that have been slammed in the past.
Work for Justice
As resurrection people, we cannot bask in the light of life to the full while others stand by in desperate need. People made in the image of God are suffering from injustice all over the world and in our own community. And when Jesus walked on earth, He made is His mission to love and serve them.
As resurrection people, we must stand and speak up on matters of justice to bring the resurrection life Christ offers to those who need it most. Whether you get involved locally or go overseas, the oppressed and their needs matter in the economy of heaven. Pursuing justice can be as simple as our choices as consumers or as involved as leading coalitions against the systemic injustices that plague our legal and educational systems here in the U.S. and abroad.
The point is, if we are living in light of a coming Kingdom, we should be working to bring some type of alignment between the world as it is and the world as it will be. N.T. Wright reminds us, “He [God] alone will make the “new heavens and new earth,” yet this is not an excuse for inaction on our part. We have a responsibility as resurrection people to work for the coming kingdom in the here and now.
Build Intentional Relationships
Life seems to come at such a rapid pace that we find ourselves trying to speed through these intersections with friends and acquaintances rather than intentionally stopping to take in the rich opportunities they provide. Living in light of the resurrection means we realize and make choices on the basis of the new creation rather than the lackluster hues of mundane existence.
Easter is about new life, and historically, it was a time when new believers became part of the body of Christ through baptism and their first communion. How many new relationships are we building right now? These are not relationships based on a manipulative effort to proselytize every person we meet with a few well-rehearsed Bible verses and platitudes, but an opportunity to acknowledge the God-given beauty and value of another human being.
Every day we meet people with whom we can share genuine hope and enter into their struggles. Jesus was always entering into new relationships as He traveled with the disciples. Christ added value to people who had nothing to offer Him in return and He still does today. And today, He invites us to join Him in His work of serving and blessing others.
We can add value to people by building relationships with those people we see every day on our way to work, in our office, in our apartment building, our dorm or wherever we meet them. You don’t have to force a deep conversation, just treat them with respect and dignity, which can go a long way even in passing.
Resurrection is not an afterthought in the story of our salvation; it is the defining moment of our re-creation. Resurrection says, “The Kingdom is coming!” As we approach Easter, let’s challenges ourselves to live in light of the promise of being brought back to life with Christ. Imagine what a difference these small seeds of can have in the coming Kingdom.
Chris Johnson is the pastor of Ewington Church in Vinton, Ohio, and a graduate student at Wesley Seminary at IWU. Chris serves his congregation with the help of his wife, Becky, and their four children.