As Easter approaches us this next week I want to share some reflections that I had this last weekend as I was remembering Jennica, taking solitude, and spending time in God’s creation. When we are celebrating Easter we are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection where he showed his power over death and sin, promised his followers the Holy Spirit, and gave us hope for our future resurrection into eternal bodies someday. In thinking about these weighty subjects I came to a conclusion: I don’t think that we are ready for the type of redemption and resurrection that God offers us. I think there are a few reasons for this. We aren’t ready for this event because of our narrow definition of redemption, death is an uncomfortable subject for most people, and our culture’s obsession with youth and beauty.
First, let me explain by what I mean when I say that we have a narrow definition of redemption. I would say that this is something that the Evangelical movement as a whole struggles with, based on our historical distinctives. Historian David Bebbington, identified four main characteristics of Evangelicals:
- Conversionism: the belief that lives need to be transformed through a “born-again” experience and a life long process of following Jesus.
- Activism: the expression and demonstration of the gospel in missionary and social reform efforts
- Biblicism: a high regard for and obedience to the Bible as the ultimate authority
- Crucicentrism: a stress on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as making possible the redemption of humanity
While these are all good, strong core beliefs (which I also hold to), we have to understand that God’s view of redemption is not just spiritual. There are a hole lot of elements that affect our soul such as: relationships, loss, suffering, sin, and our overall well-being (physical, emotional, and mental). Redemption is a holistic reorientation training of the heart and mind towards the command in Luke 10:27 to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” God wants to redeem every piece that makes us human, created in the imago Dei. In fact, all of creation is waiting for it
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:20-21
God made that redemption possible by sending Jesus as the perfect human sacrifice, to bear the weight of God’s wrath. Jesus did satisfy God’s requirement for sin, and did so because “God so loved the world” (Jn. 3:16). Heaven is the redemption of God’s creation, the righting of all the wrongs, and the place of fullness and joy in the presence of the triune God.
Second, we are not prepared for the weight of redemption and resurrection because we are uncomfortable with death. It is true that death makes us sad and feel at loss when it occurs, but we work very hard to not let that feeling linger. Death is difficult to deal with, but we must not forget those who have gone before us. In the Christianity Today article, “Why Resurrection People Remember the Dead”, writer, Cory B. Willson states,
Mourning rituals are rare in modern Western society. Instead, death comes to us like a passing advertisement displayed on a website: The news flashes and we pause for a moment before returning to our day as if nothing happened.
Because we are born again we have the promise of an eternal body that is imperishable, glorious, and reflects who God has truly made us to be (1 Cor. 15:42-49). If death were the final answer then it would make sense to not want to linger in the thoughts of remembrance, grief, and sadness. God can use all of these things to remind us that he made us for something so much more amazing: eternal relationship in his presence with his covenant community of believers. I’m not saying I look forward to dying, but I do embrace the reality because I know in my heart that only in death will I truly receive in fullness, that eternal, abundant life to the full that Jesus offers (Jn. 10:10).
Third, our culture is very addicted to youth and beauty. This makes it hard for us to understand our mortality. In a sense the apathy that we experience to the idea of a “need for God” is very well based, in my estimation, on our trust in the ability to make our image and “have our best life now.” Instant gratification and status-building are a piece of every young person’s world- no thanks to social media- and give people a sense of control to have independence and control over and above authority near and far. I don’t think that we should go as far to say that we shouldn’t acknowledge the importance of beauty and the vitality of youth, but that we shouldn’t make those things idols and create gods for us in our own image- much like many ancient cultures. Let us truly appreciate that God has made everything beautiful in its time, but wants us to keep perspective about eternity (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and to “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).
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