So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. 50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:45-58 NIV)
Here in the United States the COVID-19 pandemic is growing. Just as we thought we had it under control the number of new cases and deaths has surged upward. Wearing masks, social distancing, and hand washing are making a difference, but certainly not eliminating the spread of the disease. Add to this the social unrest following the death of George Floyd and these are chaotic times. I believe that there are things that we need to be thinking about and acting on based on what we are discovering.
I found this article in Christianity Today helpful in attempting to sort through all the noise that is coming through the media.
Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, Marxism, and Biblical Ethics
I am concerned that some are calling for us to abandon our Christian worldview. This is not the first time that Christians have been challenged by a culture that is against God and the gospel. Fortunately, throughout the history of the church there have been followers of Christ who have taken Paul at his word and remained faithful.
Paul summarizes his whole purpose in writing this chapter in 1 Corinthians 15:58. His first challenge to us is to stand firm. It is important when choosing to stand to know what we are standing for. It seems too easy for us to be stubborn about opinions and points of view that are just that, opinions, and points of view. It has proven much more difficult for the church to stand firm on the gospel submitting to Jesus as Lord. I have no question that Jesus is deeply concerned about racism and injustice. I am also convinced that the ultimate solution to these issues in our society is Christians living out the gospel and loving our neighbors the way Jesus has loved us.
This is what Paul calls us to. He does not call us to attend a worship service on Sunday. He does not call us to religious practices or spiritual disciplines. In a way, all these things while good are self-oriented. We may differ in what defines our comfortable zone, but we all have one. Paul does not call us to comfort. Instead, based on his confidence that this life is not all there is and the promise of an indestructible life to come he calls us to work.
We put much emphasis on giving of money as an essential act of worship. Unfortunately, most of it goes to maintaining the organization that provides for our spiritual needs, the local church. I think we under emphasize the importance of being generous with our time and energy to work to meet the needs of our neighbors and communities. The opportunities are overwhelming, and most will not be in situations that make us comfortable. Often, it will feel like our work is not producing any results. It is often difficult to measure the effectiveness of works of love. Paul’s point is that this is not what matters. What matters is that we work and serve out of our confidence that this life is not all there is.
So, amid the chaos and noise, remember that Jesus’ resurrection is real. Death has been defeated and we have new bodies waiting for us. I often say I cannot wait as I get older and pain becomes a frequent companion. Paul says I should not be thinking about the waiting. I should give myself to the work that will draw me closer to Jesus.
For another perspective on the issues of social injustice and racism I recommend this video from back in 2015 which includes a presentation by Bryan Stevenson, the author of “Just Mercy.”
Grace, Justice, & Mercy: An Evening with Bryan Stevenson & Rev. Tim Keller
The first 27 minutes of the video is a sermon by Tim Keller on social justice in the Bible. The remainder of the video is Bryan Stevenson’s presentation.