Pity the Fool

"Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is in vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, who He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." I Cor. 15:12-18

Yesterday I wished a little girl in our church, "Happy Birthday!" She rolled her eyes and made sure I knew, "It was yesterday!" I asked how old she was, and she told me that she turned nine years old. I responded with a reminder that this was the last time she would be single digits. I pointed her to next year when she would turn ten, and enter the world of double digits. She said with great drama and conviction, "I am sooooo ready!" I am approaching my own birthday, and soon will turn 60 years of age. I couldn't help but say a little prayer under my breath, "God help her, she has no idea what is coming her way."

By the way, Jesus never told His disciples to remember His birthday. He told them to remember His death, burial and resurrection. He even set aside a supper of celebration that He intended for His church to regularly schedule. This celebration is one of the most ignored commands of Jesus. Some people leave town, or rearrange their sock drawer whenever it is scheduled. There is no hint of conviction that this should be obeyed just because Jesus said so.

Christmas, however, is celebrated with great anticipation and weeks of prolonged binging on food and family. Even with the crass commercialization of the season, it still has a wide appeal to cultures around the world. There is something that warms the heart about a baby being born, and gifts being given to Him. Somehow this has translated into a focus on gift giving to one another. Dave Ramsey reports that for the second year in a row, over 40% of the churches in America have experienced drop in giving to the cause of Christ. The celebration of Christmas does not necessarily translate into a passion for His mission or His church.

Easter season is an even more barren landscape. It is cluttered with cuddly bunnies, baby ducks, pastel eggs, woven baskets, and shredded, plastic greenery. For all the identification that can be inspired by the birth of a baby, Easter is on the opposite extreme of the public relations pendulum. Evidently people do not know what to do with the story of a naked, dying man hanging on a cross. It becomes even more difficult when the story line has him being raised from the dead. This is a much harder sell than a baby shower with presents. Over the years, people have homogenized the Resurrection into a benign celebration of Easter Egg Hunts and new clothes, or a more cynical observation of secular Spring Fest.

Mr. T, the Mohawk coiffed character on the 1980's TV "A-Team," had a stock phrase, "I pity the fool." It was usually reserved for the impending consequences that he was about to deliver on the head of a person who had crossed him or in some way invited his wrath. It was not going to be pretty.

Proverbs points out the width of the chasm between the two choices in life. You either choose to live your life as a wise man or you choose to be a fool. There is no grey area between the lines. God offers clear direction, and consistent course correction for the humble. Prideful people invite consequences that can be expected to impact their lives like the law of gravity on an anvil dropped from a ten story building.

There are few things as sure as the power of the resurrection. There have always been those who could not bring themselves to believe it. When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he was refuting the people of his day who said there was no resurrection of the dead. They were content to believe that Jesus was a good man, but He was also a dead man. They believed that they had received enough input from the wonderful teachings of Jesus to transform them into new creations. They were willing to live according to His teachings, but they were not willing to admit their need to die to themselves. Paul was not very patient with their pride. He said, "You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies...it is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body." (I Cor. 15:36, 42)

The resurrection of Christ is symbolized by the ordinance of believer's baptism. When a person is immersed beneath the waters of the baptismal pool, they are expressing their belief in their own personal death. The act of baptism places a person under the water before they are raised up out of the water. Death precedes new life. New life is predicated on a death. This is not just a picture of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It is a symbolic expression of a believer's own admission of their need to die for their sins, but they have chosen to identify with Christ's death on their behalf. The believer's only hope of salvation is the transfer of His death sentence over onto the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This is empowered with the Spirit of the Risen Christ.

It is not enough to pick up a few catch phrases and principles from Jesus and then weave them into a personal philosophy of life. This is not going to have the power to transform a guilty person into a forgiven person. This belief system will not turn death into life here on earth or guarantee eternal life in heaven.

It would be foolish to believe that the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus was solely focused on giving people a good life here on earth. It is true, Jesus said, "I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." (John 10:10) Well meaning people have described this as a promise of a full and meaningful life here on earth, and not just eternal life in heaven. However, Jesus did not hedge His words when He said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28)

Paul understood that putting faith in God was based on the resurrection of Jesus. He saw it as central to the forgiveness of sin on earth, but he also saw the resurrection as the power to fulfill the promise of an eternal destination in heaven. The early disciples were not enamored with this world. Christians around the world identify with this point of view. American Christianity wants heaven on earth. The rest of the world's Christ followers do not live in Disney World. The resurrection gives them hope of a world that is far better than the one they are in right now.

The resurrection should remind us of the Risen Christ's power over death, but also lift our eyes towards heaven. When a baby is born is when we should probably weep. When a saint dies is the time we should be prepared to celebrate. When our vision of a full and meaningful life focuses on our happiness, here in now, it is time for corrective lenses of God's Word. Pity the fool who goes through life, and misses out on God's best for them. The Risen Christ is seated at the right hand of God. He is interceding for us on earth and preparing a place for us in heaven.

"If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God." (Colossians 3:1)