Hope is a precious commodity. Much today is said about the Gospel but little, it seems, is said about hope.
N.T. Wright has illuminated many Christian minds in recent years about why this is the case. I have just finished his book, “Surprised By Hope” and I am finding myself astounded at its conclusions. For something like 15 years now I have been aware that the Bible rarely speaks of “dying and going to heaven,” even though that is what most western Christians prattle on and on about. Three, maybe four, references to it in the New Testament. “Life after death” is, in all truth, but a fraction of the Gospel. Wright’s emphasis on the resurrection is something he regularly refers to as “life after life after death.”
And in that “life after life after death” is real hope. Without a bodily resurrection on the Last Day, Christianity becomes only about “dying and going to heaven.” And that, by itself, is pretty hopeless.
Indeed, it has created several centuries of Christians now who seem to think that the big goal is to die and receive one’s reward. It’s shallow. It’s individualistic. It cares not a tinker’s cuss for the neighbor. It means little for our lives today. It has effectively killed the Church’s mission.
It’s made a bunch of Christians who are more eager to die than to live.
The world doesn’t need such Christians. It needs Christians who are willing to live as “little Christs” with the hope of resurrected bodies TODAY.
To live such a life is to have hope. To have such a hope is to live in the resurrection of Christ and in bodies which, although broken at death, will be restored and renewed in the resurrection.
To live such a life in Baptism is to have that restoration already beginning now in the daily rising after the daily dying to sin. Christ bids a man to “come and die,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in “The Cost Of Discipleship.” But in dying every day, the same Christ bids us also to come and live, every day, as we march to our graves and as we pass through them to the resurrection in the new heavens and the new earth. Only in Christ does one truly live, truly attain to God’s idea of humanity, truly honor this gift of a God-given body.
It reminds us of a very essential point to be made about the Gospel. In the Gospel of Jesus Christ, THERE IS ALWAYS MORE…
If you think the main thing is that you will go to heaven when you die, I’m happy to report to you that there is much. much more God has in store for you.
If you’re needing hope, there’s always more of it in Christ!