Believing in the resurrection of the dead should make us less afraid of death. But it should not make us think lightly about life on earth. We all know that we are mortal human beings. As an 81-year-old I know that death is not a distant future for me. But life is still important. It’s important not first of all because it’s hard to say farewell to those we love, but primarily because it has to do with our calling to make life on earth a little better, a little more in tune with our Creator’s intent for his creatures. At least, I feel God nudging me on to use my gifts, limited though they are, to benefit others and promote God’s will even when energy at times becomes a non-renewable resource.
Some Christians think that the resurrection is not primarily about life on earth but about the after-life. It shows that Jesus triumphs over death and the grave. It opens up a way beyond this life into the next. But can the appeal of the resurrection also not be a trumpet call to establish Christian schools, to encourage faithful families, to elect honest governments, to promote healthy neighbourhoods, or to find a cure for cancer? Calvinist theology dares to make such claims. Just read the following quote from an inspiring article by James A. Fowler.
“At Easter time we do not just celebrate another event in history even if it is to be regarded as the greatest event in history. Resurrection is not just an historical event; it is an ongoing dynamic of the life of God in Jesus Christ. . . . One cannot count themselves a ‘Christian’ unless they have encountered, received and are participating in the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (Christianity is Resurrection, 1999).
We are invited by this theologian to participate in the resurrection of Christ while we are on earth. That is a fantastically inspiring invitation. It encourages us to wake up each morning with an awareness of resurrection life unfolding in and around us.
Seek to do God’s will
We must not isolate the events in the life of Christ from the experience of our redemption. The incarnation, for example, affirms our life on earth like nobody’s business. The birth in a stable nicely warmed by animals whose methane gas eruptions take the chill out of the air speaks of our earthy purposes. The preaching and teaching that Jesus did is all about focusing on what our task here on earth is: “Blessed are the peacemakers. Working in the father’s vineyard. Being a Samaritan to whoever lays suffering in your path.”
And we have not discussed all the healing miracles Jesus performed, have we? I mean, why bother healing a blind man or raising someone from the dead? They will eventually die anyway, right? Temporary solutions? You bet. But that’s what life on earth is all about: temporary families, temporary marriages, even if you leave divorce out of the equation, temporary wealth (you can’t take it with you, stupid!), temporary fame. We are but a moment, but what a moment if we allow the juices of life to flow through us as we rise, shine and disappear.
So, yes, the resurrection of Christ addresses the value of life on earth, and, therefore, can ask the question whether we have the right to self-determination when it comes to the number of our days. What does the Psalmist mean when he prays in Psalm 90,“Teach us to number our days?” Does he simply want us to count them? “Okay, done, Lord. I’m 81 years old. Let’s see – what does that amount to in number of days?” I tend to interpret the prayer as saying, “Teach us to value or appreciate the days of our life.”
Our participation in the resurrection of Christ means that self-determination about ending life is not an absolute right. Whether we are talking abortion or doctor-assisted suicide, the absolute right to self-determination is not a biblical concept. It's a humanistic or atheistic view of life. As believers we confess that our only comfort in life and in death is “that I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Of course, we are stewards of our life and our time, and we are allowed to make decisions that affect our health and length of life all the time. And sometimes those decisions are not life-affirming. But the direction should at least be clear: seek to do God’s will in all decisions. Make them fall within the concept of covenantal faithfulness to our God, to our community and to our nation's laws.
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