Every world religion has at least two things in common, in my surface observance. Each has a version of good works and obedience to systems that earn the favor of its higher energy, that grants future rewards. The second is that they lay no claim to a living leader, prophet, teacher.
Interestingly, some, even in so-called “holiness” circles, ironically, have reduced Christianity to a moralistic performance. Obviously tragic.
But we claim a risen Savior. To be specific, we claim a pre-existent, incarnate, crucified, and risen Jesus of Nazareth, who Himself claim to be the very Son of God!
This claim is singularly unique. Yep, redundant for emphasis. It is the core of our hope, sure, but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. It is a faith claim. A standard, lifted high, of belief. So I’ll leave others to the proofing, that I’m assuming none of my readers (ok, potential readers) even need. And the resurrection ties everything together: creation and the pre-existence and eternality of the Son; incarnation now makes an essential bodily resurrection, reasonable. And crucifixion: we can’t have the need for a resurrection apart from a death.
Of course, there’s the catch. To those that are perishing, none of this is “reasonable.”
So I’ve found that, among my post-Christian friends, there is an ability to believe and embrace all manner of unreasonable faith tenets, save one: resurrection. How is it that otherwise intelligent people can choose belief in reincarnation, for example, without blinking an eye, yet that same person feels resurrection is laughable? Or, on a more personal, relational level, that intellectually contradictory elements of faith can be held in tension while maintaining respect for basic intellectual superiority.
In the divine working of God in the human spirit, there is a “tipping point.” It is resurrection. That one claiming to be God could actually act like God and conquer death in so personal a way is beyond intellect alone. And so, as Paul told the Romans, verbalizing one’s surrender to Jesus as Lord of all, and believing in one’s heart that Jesus is risen, isn’t just a formulaic mantra, but the very touchstone of the human condition. It is pride and faith that must come under God on God’s terms.
Resurrection assumes human eternality, that there is life after death. This too, is counter to our materialist friends suffering from “here-and-now-ism.” Resurrection to eternal condition, whether to beauty and bliss, or to sorrow and suffering, also, is repulsive and ignorant to thinkers of today.
Resurrection is the distinguishing trait of true, biblical faith, for there is no other religious system created by man that centers on it. And I have decided that for all the utilitarian brands (that is, how to make my life here on earth better) of religious practice held by my now hundreds of San Franciscan friends, there is one invitation that best clarifies our biblical faith that I will be quietly and clearly offering: Jesus was a good teacher and compassionate man who was killed for claiming to be God, and then rose from the grave to prove it was true, and make risen life possible for me. This sets apart our faith from all others. This is what sets apart our former life from our transformed life.