Blogging Through the Book Part 4
There is a big culture war in the US right now between people who want religion kept out of public life and people who don’t know how to live separate from their religion.
The key to the problem between the two groups is the resurrection. One group says that this world is all there is and we just make the best of it. The other group says that Christ rose from the dead, and this world is just the beginning. This group claims that the resurrected Christ in the person of the Holy Spirit indwells them, and they can’t go anywhere without his presence.
One point of great conflict is the subject of ethics. If this world is all there is, and if it is up to us as humans to figure out a good way to live, then there can be all sorts of variables in the mix. There is no absolute, no revelation, nothing eternal or permanent. Ethics can evolve and mutate.
On page 82 of The Gospel of Yes Mike Glenn says. “If Jesus is just a teacher [i.e. not risen from the dead], the Beatitudes are inspirational moral goals to which we should aspire.” Many humanists and even many adherents of other religions view the Beatitudes precisely this way. Christian humanists, if there can actually be such a thing, teach the Beatitudes this way. Mormons think of the Beatitudes this way. Other philosophies and religions, (Hindus, for example) see the Beatitudes as kind and lovely teachings to be admired.
If Christ rose from the dead, however, then this world is not all there is. There are eternal absolutes. There is a God who reveals himself and teaches us something better than we can even imagine on our own. Glenn continues by saying that if Jesus is alive, then “the Beatitudes become the moral expectations of the coming Kingdom.” The Beatitudes are not about time and space; they are about eternity and infinity.
Christ promised his followers that the Holy Spirit would come, but he could only come after Jesus died and rose again. The resurrection was that important. The Holy Spirit is the power of the resurrection living in each believer, as Paul wrote in a letter to the church at Corinth, saying that our bodies are temple[s] of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19) We walk around all day every day in sacred space. The cultural argument about secular and sacred spaces makes no sense to us, because we live in sacred space all the time. We live at the intersection of time and eternity.
When a secular thinker reads Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy (Matthew 5:7) he does not recognize the eternal and infinite dimensions of that teaching. He is like Simon Peter who asked Jesus if he should forgive someone seven times. The secular philosopher, who believes Jesus was an astonishingly good person who was badly misunderstood and mistreated, asks how we can ever be truly merciful. He believes that advocating the end of the death penalty sounds merciful, because he believes he is giving the convicted murderer the opportunity to continue living in the only world there actually is. The only mercy he can imagine is extension of life in time and space. He actually believes that the murderer is being given time to come to his senses and perhaps improve both his character and his life experience before he dies and goes out like a light.
When we read Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy, we know a living Christ who has already shown us mercy from the eternal and infinite throne room in heaven. We show mercy, because we have received mercy, and we will receive mercy in the Kingdom where the Beatitudes are the Word of the Father. Christ, God in the flesh, spoke those words. Christ is the Living Word of God for eternity. His words shape not just this world, but the world to come. We advocate for real mercy, for eternal mercy, when we share the good news of Christ and his mercy to us. We never live exclusively in the present world, because the indwelling Holy Spirit leads us to live in an eternal context.
This truth doesn’t make life easy. It puts us in conflict with people who want us to shed those eternal values when we are in the “real” world. The “secular” world. If the Holy Spirit lives in us, we can never actually be in a secular space or a secular situation. This is the reason that, for Christians, issues such as the death penalty and abortion and euthanasia and genetic selection of babies and even birth control are never simply secular issues. We are concerned about not only our own behavior, but also the behavior of people whom we influence. A Christian employer who operates a dry cleaning shop won’t choose health insurance or background music or the wages he pays simply on the basis of time/space values. If his eternal values conflict with the values of secular neighbors or a secular government, he may have some time/space problems. If he is true to his eternal values, however, Christ promises never to leave him and promises him eternal rewards for his faithful testimony.
I haven’t always been alert to the eternal connection of all my actions. I have been lured more than once into a secular answer when I should have listened to that indwelling Spirit. I have been deeply grateful for the mercy shown to me when I made those bad decisions. I am not likely done with making mistakes. However, I am learning to listen for the voice that speaks in sheer silence, the voice that speaks living words from the Living Word of God.
I am daily more grateful for the truth of the resurrection. And I am grateful to be resident eternally in sacred space.
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“Blogging Through the Book is a group of bloggers who literally blog while reading the book. It’s different than merely reading a book and posting a review. We have a chance to read and share our thoughts in community. Click HERE to learn more or visit www.danapittman.com.”
- 15 Days in the Word with John Piper – THE STUPENDOUS REALITY OF BEING IN CHRIST JESUS (christlikeministriesnwa.wordpress.com)
- Christ Is Risen (colourfulchurch.wordpress.com)
- Love in a Human Form (briancoatney.com)