This post is by T, and is the second post in the series that examines who pacifism is connected to how we understand Jesus Christ himself.
We’re continuing our discussion of some of the New Testament’s most central themes, attempting to lay a proper, Christological foundation for discussing issues surrounding how Christ’s followers are to deal with violent people. Today our focus is Resurrection, both Christ’s and ours.
In our discussion of the Cross in the last post, my basic contention was that Christianity has done a good job seeing and communicating the Cross as representative of Christ and central to his work, but not as well in making it representative of Christians and central to their vocation as Christ’s people. Despite Jesus’ clear connection of cross-bearing with his disciples’ vocation as well as his own, we’ve not tended to embrace, whether out of ignorance, confusion or convenience, that cross-bearing is central to our vocation as God’s people and our identity as Christ’s disciples. In a nutshell, we’ve tended to think of the cross as more of a central one-off event rather than a central viral event, creating a new kind of self-sacrificing human race and nation who, like their leader, can be accurately represented by a cross.
Part of the reason for this disconnect between leader and people is tied to today’s topic of Resurrection. In several conservative vs. liberal debates over the last several years, a perennial issue is whether Jesus physically rose from the dead. I share my conservative brethren’s concerns about calling any faith “Christian” that does not have Jesus’ physical resurrection as an absolutely critical piece, if not the centerpiece, of its foundation. Christianity is a resurrection faith. That said, I can’t help but notice that, as with the cross, we have isolated trust in Christ’s resurrection from trust in our own, and thereby diminished a good portion of its intended power in our lives.
What does it mean to really trust in the resurrection of the dead? Does the New Testament witness urge us to put our hope in trust merely in Christ’s resurrection, or also, through his, in our own? What ethical impact is the resurrection of the dead (specifically our own) intended to have? To ask the question Christologically, was Jesus’ own faith in his resurrection critical to his own cross-bearing ethic? If it was, will our trust in our resurrection be any less critical for us in order to follow that same ethic? How does Paul’s life and teachings on the resurrection illuminate and shape our thinking about resurrection as well? Do you personally feel, like Paul did, as though you should be pitied above all if there is no resurrection? Is that relevant in any way?
Once Jesus began predicting his own crucifixion, he not only made it clear that his followers must follow suit and pick up a cross, he rarely predicted his death without also predicting his resurrection. The scriptures are clear that Jesus thought of them and spoke of them together. The plan of God was not merely cross, but cross followed by resurrection. Further, the scriptures tell us, “For the joy set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross.” His many conversations with his disciples, especially in John’s gospel, make it clear that Jesus trusted himself to the plan of crucifixion to be followed by his resurrection and vindication by God as a seamless whole, and even then with great heartache at times. But for the joy set before him, he endured, he accepted the cross. When slapped, he did not strike back; when cursed, he blessed. When taken from; he gave more. In all this, resurrection of the dead was a key part of Christ’s own faith and hope, which gave him some of the amazing strength to live out his great passion.
As we ruminate on these things, it is worthwhile to point this out. Many times in discussions of pacifism, the questions quickly come to use of violence to protect, to use the categories often given, “women and children.” Since this is only our second post, I don’t want to fully engage this issue until we’ve done more work, but I do want to ask this: does our hope in the resurrection (both the righteous and the unrighteous) have any impact on what we fear, even for others, and how we react to evil, even against loved ones? How so? Is there any sense in which you think that God will require his people to trust not only themselves, but others to the promise of resurrection of the dead? Both for rescue and for vengeance?
Regardless of your conclusions here, I am convinced that meditation on the resurrection of the dead is helpful for us all.