If being ‘Christlike’ is about embodying the big story of Jesus, in his incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, what does the last part mean? How can we embody the resurrection?
The easy answer is that we can’t now but one day will. Jesus’ resurrection assures us death will not hold us, and we too will be resurrected when Jesus comes to complete His work (see 1 Corinthians 15). But that’s a cop-out! We cannot become flesh in the same way as Jesus (we already are flesh), nor are we all called to literal crucifixion. I’ve still argued we must embody both.
So, how about resurrection then?
I feel in good company. If I’m honest, this is the part of the big picture of Jesus’ life which feels least concrete in its application for us. But like I said, I’m in good company. Paul wrote:
‘I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection of the dead.’ (Philippians 3:10-11)
Paul seems pretty clear on the whole death thing, and he writes a lot in a number of places about being buried with Christ, our old lives being gone (as I discussed in the post about being crucified). I love that Paul, when talking about participating in the resurrection, can only be as specific as ‘somehow’! It’s a bit of a mystery.
But it’s a mystery we must live in. The truth is that we have been buried with Christ, but that’s not the whole story. Whenever Paul talks about it, he goes on to say we have been raised with Him too. Not will be raised, have been raised. It is true not just that the old has gone, but also that the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
There is a new life to be lived, and to be resurrected means living it.
The essence of being resurrected
So what does this new life look like? I think there are a few answers. First, it doesn’t look like the old life! For example, if Jesus’ death calls us to reject old concepts of power, empire and authority (which it does!), then living the resurrection means an embrace of humility, submission and – yes – weakness.
We must embrace the values of the kingdom of which we are now citizens. We were not raised to belong to this world, but because we belong to Christ. We must constantly be striving to live in His resurrection, living for all the things His victory achieved. If this sounds similar to the stuff about crucifixion, it’s because they’re two sides of the same coin. Being crucified is a rejection of all that is wrong. Being resurrected is dwelling in all that is right.
Second, being resurrected has to be exciting! Shane Claiborne quips that Christians are well known for believing in life after death, but you’d be forgiven for wondering if we believe in life before death! We have been raised in a way that means we will never die. Jesus’ resurrection shows that God desires life to be lived, not cut short or curtailed. So let’s really live! Jesus meant what He said:
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Finally, our lives should be marked by power. Not power in the sense of dominance or position. Nor in the sense that we don’t need to work ourselves. Power in the sense that there is power in the name of Jesus. The power that defeated death lives in us. We will never be defeated, even if these bodies are taken from us. In the book of Acts, the case is made that if the church has power from God, they will be unstoppable (Acts 5:34-39). Well, we do. And we are!
We can certainly expect setbacks, but we can also expect to see things, exciting things, in our lives and our churches and our efforts to further God’s kingdom here on earth. It is the resurrection that marks God’s greatest display of victory and paves the way for new life, and it is through embracing that new life and living in that victory that we too can be a display of God’s great power.
To embody the resurrection is to embrace the new life we have, in all its vibrancy and all its power.
What might that look like?
As before, some non-comprehensive ideas about what this could look like in real life:
- A commitment to embrace only those values which embody the kingdom of God.
- Accordingly, a life that is countercultural, confounding and confusing worldly expectations.
- An excitement and vibrancy in life.
- Amazing things happening and breakthroughs in our lives and communities in the power of God and in ways that are not natural or down to us.
- Holding onto things here lightly, because we know we are citizens of a different kingdom.
- A lack of fear over death, because we know it is not the end of this life, but a continuation of the life we are already living.
Any other ideas? Please, I’d love your thoughts as I try to flesh this out.