And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”… (1 Corinthians 15:30-32)
The concept of Hope is funny. It is generally accepted as a positive term and can be adopted across people of varied backgrounds and beliefs, as political slogans, and in greeting cards. What we put our hope in is of paramount importance and can be a point of great contention across people groups and individuals. Followers of Jesus have placed our hope in the resurrection of the body through the person of Jesus Christ that ushers us into eternal bliss and the renewal of all things. Without this kind of hope, there is no point in the endeavor of sharing Christ with others. The hope of the resurrection is what enabled followers of Jesus to stand firm in the Christian life and share the good news with others in spite of any trials that they faced. Fully apprehending the reality of the resurrection is the key to the gospel going forth in our midst and the kind of hope we need to press on for the days ahead?
The resurrection from the dead is now a well-established doctrine of Orthodox Christianity. In the Apostle Paul’s time, this hope was put under question. There were some who said that life on earth was all there was and our blessings in Jesus are only for the here and now. Paul clearly stated that if Jesus is only for this life then his suffering for the gospel was futile and he might as well just live for himself! (1 Cor 15:32) Now just because the doctrine of the resurrection is now generally accepted does not mean we have taken it to heart, or that it influences the way we live, or is something we actively hope in. By not talking about, meditating on, and taking encouragement from the life to come, we also could fall into the trap of living for what we can get for ourselves now, just as those who would outright reject this teaching would do. Jesus’ rising again into a spiritual body showed us that we too will have a spiritual body and will live forever in a new and perfect heaven and earth. This is what we are to take hold of and cherish.
The hope of the resurrection fueled Paul’s preaching through times of hardship and heavy persecution knowing that something better was to come. We hear of the heroics of our brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries willing to share the gospel of Jesus. Perhaps in other places, the promise of the next life is more appealing and the inclusion of friends and family seems more urgent because of the pervasive evidence that this world is in fact unstable. In contrast, in countries like ours with material prosperity and relative freedom, the rigors of evangelism have slowed and we seem content to hold onto the pleasures of this life with little thought to what happens next. Some churches have turned to encourage people to live their best life today instead of really contemplating the resurrection of tomorrow as the motivation to live for God and others. So hope is not absent it is just misplaced in this world and this life instead of the fulfillment of time where justice and peace will reign under the only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Oftentimes we can be deterred when people do not respond to the hope offered through Jesus’ death and resurrection making us want to retreat and go back to our own lives. We as followers and loyal subjects of Jesus should not be primarily concerned if and how people respond to the gospel message but our calling to represent our King until He returns. I do believe that the things that people put their hope in besides Jesus will be shaken and we must be firmly anchored to the rock so that we can be there to share this hope in due season.
To reach our generation, we as the church must place our hope back on the resurrection and the life to come in Jesus Christ and this hope will be reflected in sacrificial living, investing our time in the mission of the gospel, and a willingness to give of ourselves even when it hurts. If Jesus’ bride can yet again apprehend the short and fleeting nature of the pleasures of this world and hold onto the hope of the resurrection, we would yet again rise up as soldiers of Christ bringing the gospel forth with spirited abandon no longer primarily concerned with what will happen now but what we can look forward to in the future to come!