Pastor Nathan's Newsletter Article May 2019
The Pitiful Christian Life Nathan Moore, Associate Pastor
It is likely that you are reading this a week or so after our Easter celebration. Though Christians all around the world gather in worship each Sunday (the day Christ rose) and celebrate the daily effects of the resurrection, our celebration takes on a special tone on Easter.
1 Corinthians 15 is a famous chapter which details many of the effects of the resurrection. And in one line of reasoning, Paul imagines what it would be like if Christ hadn't, in fact, raised from the dead (I Cor. 15:12-19). If Christ hasn't been raised then despair must abound for all for neither then would we be raised and we would still be dead in our sins. But then in vs. 19 Paul says this, "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Cor. 15:19)
I remember when I was in middle school listening to a speaker at my church share his testimony. He spoke convincingly of the incredible, life-satisfying joy that is involved in following Christ. He even went on to say that Christ had made him so happy, that even if he were to die and discover Christianity to be false, he's still convinced it makes for the happiest life and worth the cost.
Now as a teenager, the notion of the Christian life as a happy life was completely foreign to me. I saw the Christian life as a life of rules and restriction. But now I come to know those joys first hand. I can boldly testify that the Christian life, one filled with the Spirit and rich in intimacy with God, is indeed a happy life. And I know many others who live vibrant lives of faith, in spite of great difficulty. So the question is, if the Christian life can produce such happy people, why would (Paul or people) say that "we are, of all people most to be pitied" if Christ hasn't risen from the dead? What is so inherently pitiful about the Christian life? If Christ hasn't risen from the dead, then all of us are still dead in our sins. That wouldn't be unique to Christians.
I think the answer has to do, not with Christian joy, but with Christian sacrifice. Paul speaks frequently of Christian joy, but he speaks just as frequently of sacrifice, For Paul, being a follower of the resurrected Christ means everything has changed. Now Paul is willing to be imprisoned and even to die (Acts 21:13). Now his life is no longer precious (Acts 20:24) and could even be compared to dung (Phil 3:7), for he has been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20) and is dead to the world. In other words, for Paul, since Christ has risen from the dead, Paul was no longer living for his earthly life, but for his future life. His life was so radically sacrificial, so given over for the cause of Christ, that it was literally pitiful. So much so, that if Christ hasn't risen, Paul is most to be pitied.
But Christ has been raised hasn't he? So the question for us today is this: "Are our lives pitiful?" Are our lives so built around the resurrection that they would be considered a total waste if the resurrection was found to be false? The Christian life isn't a hobby, or some extracurricular that we add on to our lives here in the world. The Christian life is really a death-with the hope that we will rise again.