Good News Is About Life and Love, Not Death and Dying, Pt. 3

Good News Is About Life and Love, Not Death and Dying, Pt. 3 March 28, 2024


Again, as we wrap up our consideration of the original good news of the early Jesus movement, whatever we make of these reports today, the lessons in these stories’ emphasis are not from Jesus’ dying but in the undoing of his death. The story is one about the ability of truth to overcome falsehood, of life to triumph over the death-dealing agents of our world, for love to conquer hate. Injustice doesn’t have to have the last word in our stories.

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(Read this series from the beginning at Part 1 and Part 2.)

The good news, to use the words of Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas, was that the “crucifying powers of evil” have been defeated!

“The resurrection is God’s definitive victory over crucifying powers of evil . . . The impressive factor is how it [the cross] is defeated. It is defeated by a life-giving rather than a life-negating force. God’s power, unlike human power, is not a ‘master race’ kind of power. That is, it is not a power that diminishes the life of another so that others might live. God’s power respects the integrity of all human bodies and the sanctity of all life. This is a resurrecting power. Therefore, God’s power never expresses itself through the humiliation or denigration of another. It does not triumph over life. It conquers death by resurrecting life. The force of God is a death-negating, life-affirming force.” (Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God, pp. 182-183).

And a few pages later:

“What the resurrection points to, however, is not the meaning of Jesus’ death, but of his life.” (Ibid. p. 188)

The powers of the status quo had attempted to silence Jesus’ life-giving, “saving,” redemptive work. Yet through the narrative element of the resurrection, this attempt to end Jesus’ work is turned into a mere interruption. Whereas the cross was the state’s attempt to stop Jesus’ salvific work, the resurrection causes that work to continue despite the cross, and to especially continue in the lives of Jesus’ followers as we seek to be conduits of life, healing, and liberation our own contexts today.

Christianity isn’t a death cult. I agree with womanist matriarch Dr. Delores Williams, who has been relentless through the years in pulling back the curtain and showing us the intrinsic harm of faith traditions that find meaning in Jesus’ death on a cross: “Jesus came for life and to show us something about life and living together and what life was all about” (in Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas’ What’s Faith Got to Do With It?, p. 90) 

Williams also wrote:

“Christians…cannot forget the cross, but neither can they glorify it. To do so is to glorify suffering and to render…exploitation sacred. To do so is to glorify the sin of defilement.” (Williams, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God Talk, p.132)

So for me, the Jesus story isn’t about death. Easter reminds us that our story isn’t about dying either. Our story is about how life can overcome death even when death is wielded as a weapon of injustice or used as an attempt to keep us down. The God of the resurrection story is on the side of the oppressed, marginalized, and downtrodden. And the power that can save our world is not one that appeals to more dying, but to a refusal to let go of life. 

The good news is that hate doesn’t have the last word. The Jesus story doesn’t end on Friday evening. And we can choose love and life as the last word for our stories too.



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About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

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