The day is truly upon us now. I hope we all celebrate it well. Paul said – if Christ is not risen from the dead then we are, of all men, most to be pitied – after all, our faith would be vain without the resurrection. My single greatest concern for modern Christianity is that we have to think a bit to get on a wavelength with Paul here. We are so very comfortable in the world that we have lost the sense of urgency – almost desperation – that drove our first-generation brethren. They were intimately familiar with violence and injustice. Socio-economic inequality on a level we can barely imagine was an accepted reality. And taking up faith in Jesus Christ only made it worse. Being a Christian could get you divested of your property, thrown in jail, beaten and/or killed. These things did happen to plenty of people simply because they followed the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul himself, who once known comfort, status, and wealth, said that he had lost it all – traded it for beatings, privations, and ultimately death – and counted the loss as having given up only so much garbage in comparison to the excellency of knowing Christ. Well, as long as there is a resurrection from the dead! If there was no resurrection – if Christ had not been raised and neither would we – then why was it that we were giving up such little comfort as might be had and calling down the wrath of the sinful world on our heads? If this life was IT – why make it shorter and harder than it already is? That whole ‘take up your cross’ thing loses a lot of luster if there isn’t an empty tomb!
Our situation is different. I have been a Christ follower all my life. You could lose a couple of fingers and still count on one hand the Sundays I have not been in Church in my soon to be 64 years. And the very small amount of negative attention I have encountered as a result is not worthy to be called persecution. I am further blessed to have lived my life in a time when I enjoyed great freedom and legal protections. I have not always had everything I wanted but I have never gone hungry and never lacked a roof over my head. I am not complaining about my good fortune. And, although many now disagree, I continue to assert that it was the force of the gospel that shaped the best things about the world I live in. But I do understand why those who share my circumstances are not quite as focused on the world to come as Paul was. This world seems pretty good to us.
And yet, in 2018 (the most recent year for which I could find complete statistics) there were 620,000 abortions in the United States. In that same year 1.2 million Americans went to the ER as the result of assault. 20,000 of those died despite medical attention. This does not touch the larger murder rate. The number of children that went missing in 2018 was 421,394. There is scarcely a family that hasn’t been touched by divorce.
I could fill this blog post with grim statistics like the ones above. But you probably begin to take my point. The world – the poor fallen sinful broken desperate world – still stinks. Can we as Christ followers ever truly get comfortable with all this tragedy because we all got raises and social security (despite my fears to the contrary) looks like it may survive long enough for me to claim benefits?! And that’s the thing. Getting comfortable with the world means ignoring a lot of stuff. If our Christ-like hearts aren’t breaking, we don’t have Christ-like hearts.
And, of course, we have to reach out and help. Children need protecting. The hungry need fed. The desperate need support. And who should do it if not those who follow Christ? But here lies another danger. We will not save this world. In the end, we can only be saved out of it and work that as many others as possible will also be saved out of it. Our Savior, who fed multitudes, plainly told us that poverty would endure to the end of the age. War and all its devastation likewise.
What to do?
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church