Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a statement of faith and hope

Published 12:01 am Saturday, March 22, 2008

The resurrection of Jesus is a historical statement, but more than that, it’s a statement of faith and hope.

What Jesus’ followers experienced after the crucifixion happened in their hearts and minds. The church celebrates Easter not only because a resurrection happened in the minds and hearts of Jesus’ followers a little more than 2,000 years ago, but also because the resurrection happens now. It happens whenever women and men have the courage to choose life and to refuse the threat of death, when they continue in hope because they believe in a meaningful creation and in the power of a loving God.

What would life be like without hope? It seems to me that without hope, something dies within us; because what we hope for determines the quality of our lives now and in the future. Psychiatrists tell us that our psyche is shaped by our past, but we’re also learning that it is hope that drives us on. Ralph Ahlberg writes, “It’s the pull of the future more than the pressure of the past that gives us the power to achieve and change and grow. It’s the undiscovered and inexperienced; the unresolved, unexplained and untamed that pulls us on to the next challenge, the next adventure, the next day.”

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There is no sickness worse than the sickness of hopelessness. In fact, I believe the mood of fear and anxiety that so often characterizes our lives today is caused by the suspicion many of us have that there’s very little we can do to improve either our own situation or the multiple problems that cause so much suffering in the world. So we feel at times overwhelmed and frustrated and helpless.

In an article in Harper’s Magazine, there’s an essay by Lore Segal, titled, “When Hope and History Don’t Rhyme.” The point of the article is that we human beings are prone to lie because reality is so painful. She says we can’t handle the truth and illustrates this idea through the experience of her grandparents who survived the Jewish holocaust. They held on to hope by looking at the horrors of their world through “rose colored glasses.” Hope in Segal’s words is only “a gentle falsehood essential to our progress.”

Contrast this perspective to that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. a Christian pastor and theologian in Germany who was hanged by the Nazis for his resistance to Hitler.

He said that some Christians think it useless to prepare for a better future here on earth. They think that the meaning of current events is chaos, disorder and catastrophe. Many evangelicals today often surrender to a kind of apocalypticism characterized by secret rapture, second comings and a bloody tribulation on all but the “saved.” To that kind of thinking, Bonhoeffer said, “It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow. In that case, we’ll gladly stop working for a better time. But not before.”

That’s the spirit of Jesus set against the spirit of pessimism in our time. It’s the spirit of resurrection faith. It’s the spirit of true hope.

Del loy is pastor of Crosspoint Church in Natchez.