Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith is also vain…If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. I Cor. 15:12-19
I believe there is a resurrection of the dead – both here on earth and later when Christ returns. It’s the resurrection here on earth that I’m grappling with. To be sure, I have seen lives resurrected – both from an actual, physical death, but more so from the death that sin causes – victories over addiction, anger, selfishness, immorality. I’ve seen lives completely transformed by the love, forgiveness, and power of Christ. Even my own life. Yes, the good grades, good friends, good behavior, good girl from a good family and good neighborhood, who went to a good school, got a good job, and married a good guy – even that girl was in desperate need of forgiveness and resurrection power to overcome sin and receive God’s love. (Still am.)
But it’s not a one-way relationship where God simply bestows the forgiveness and love giving us no freedom to decide whether or not we will receive it. When my kids are being questioned as to why they are repeating the same negative behavior and having to suffer the same consequence, they say, “But I prayed that God would make me stop doing this, and He won’t make me stop!” To which I usually reply, ” You are not a puppet on strings. God has no desire to make you say and do all the right things. He wants you to choose them, to choose Him. That’s what a relationship is about. It shows Him you love Him, too, and desire to please Him.” So, it seems we have a part and our part is receiving.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God…. John 1:12
In the last few years I have encountered several people who claim to know Christ, but at the same time are causing much dissension and great pain in my life, the lives of my loved ones, and the life of the church. And I wonder, do they really know Him? And then I wonder, do I really know Him if I’m wondering if they really know Him? It can be really confusing to be a Christian sometimes. We are called to love and extend grace, but are we allowed to exercise discernment without it being called judgment?
In Dan Allender’s book, Bold Love, he discusses the dangers of labeling those who are difficult to deal with, yet says we must do this at times for the sake of loving them well. We must know how they would be categorized biblically, in order to know what we’re up against in trying to love them. His (and the Bible’s) categories are the evil person, the fool, and the normal sinner.
The evil person, he says, lacks empathy, shame, and goodness. Their lack of true connection with people keeps them from viewing other people as “a living, breathing being who feels hurt, fear sorrow, and shame.” When the evil person is someone close to you, and they profess to be a believer, it can be so confusing as to why they are consistently acting in a way that destroys their life and the lives of others. Is a Christian truly capable of this? Where is the restraint of the Holy Spirit? You second guess yourself when you call their behavior questionable or worse, sinful.
But God, in His faithfulness, and out of His great love (and without my help!) will expose the evil and give the person another chance – even a second, third and fourth chance, which boggles my human sense of justice. But what happens when they don’t take the chance? It’s a chance to yet again receive an opportunity for resurrection, yet they twist it and resist it in order to continue in their sinful and destructive ways. I am really frustrated by this lately. I am praying for a person in my life to truly receive the resurrection and be changed miraculously in their person – their whole being. It seems the only hope, but it also seems to be somewhat dependent on the very person who tends toward evil. After a lifetime of indulging in the sinful nature to the extreme, are they even capable of this?
In Allender’s words, “Though evil is cold, hard, and destructive, no person is so evil, or so beyond the grace of God, that His light is unable to penetrate. Our task is to know what lurks inside the heart of the evil person so we can excavate a pathway toward the part of his heart that is made in the image of God and, consequently, still hungers for love and meaning. In every person, no matter how reprobate, there is some remnant of desire for beauty and justice. “
I am praying for this. There is much at stake. It feels hopeless. I so much desire that this person would feel the weight of their sin only to look up and see the deflection of that sin on to Christ at the cross and the forgiveness thereby available. That they would hold out their hand and open their heart to this gift and truly receive it.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who indwells you. Romans 8:11
May this person allow you access to their heart and life – an indwelling of your Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and can raise their life from sin and evil as well. May their loved ones worship you, Lord, because of the power they see displayed in this sinner’s life. May our hope in the resurrection of the dead be proven yet again. May our faith not be in vain.
And, may I walk in this resurrection power in my own daily struggle with sin.