It was Easter Sunday, and I had no reason to go to church.
It was nine degrees outside. Nine degrees. This Southern girl had never experienced that before, not even in the darkest depths of winter. All I wanted to do was bury myself deeper into my bed, resting under my white covers rather than braving the white snow drifts outside. And I should have. I could have taken my time waking up, and eaten a nice warm breakfast, rather than scoffing down cereal. And I should have. I could have slowly and thoroughly prepared myself for the day, rather than rushing about in a flurry searching for gloves and scarves and tying shoelaces for my little brother. And I should have.
In fact, I should save myself the trouble of having to go to church every week, I should do away with the discipline of reading my Bible every morning, I should dispense with the whole of my faith — if.
If Christ is not risen.
If Christ is not risen, then I shouldn’t bother with any of this. That’s what Paul says. “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (1 Cor. 15:14) My faith is just an empty useless thing. If Christ is not risen, then why waste any time on it?
“Now, that’s a bit extreme don’t you think?” No. No it isn’t. If we think Christianity is of any use without the Resurrection, then our understanding of its purpose is flawed. Christianity isn’t a morality system we follow to help mankind. It’d be a terrible one if it was; for its followers are told to “turn the other cheek,” (Matt. 5:39) “bless those who curse you… pray for them who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:39) and, in short, be taken advantaged by and likely wiped out by the rest of humanity that doesn’t follow these rules. If Christianity stripped of the Resurrection is a morality system, it wouldn’t last long.
If we think Christianity can be of any comfort without the Resurrection, then our view of its promises is flawed. Christianity isn’t a nice hope to cling to. It tells us “in this world you will have tribulation.” (Jhn. 16:33) It assures us that the world will hate us. (1 Jhn. 3:13) It tells us to leave home and family and fame and wealth; it tells us our futures in this life will likely be full of pain and suffering. If Christianity stripped of the Resurrection is a comfort, it’s a poor one.
A Christianity stripped of the Resurrection is not only stripped of its use and comfort, but it’s stripped too of the one thing it has claimed.”And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:17) A Resurrection-less Christianity is a powerless Christianity. A lying Christianity. Jesus’ Resurrection was His final proof, His resting case, that He was who He said He was and did what He said He would do. If He is not risen — then He is not the Son of God. If He is not the Son of God — then He did not live a perfect life. And if He did not live a perfect life — then what payment could He have made for our sins? If He is not risen, then He was a lunatic or a liar, deranged or deceiving.
Our faith would be useless. Every Sunday morning constricted by fancy clothes — foolishness. All our memorizing and devotions — wasted time. The suffering and persecutions, the jail time and deaths of the believers around the world, all of it — meaningless. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)
(Don’t you love the but’s of the Bible?)
“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (1 Cor. 15:20)
Christianity does have use, it does have comfort, it does have power. He is risen. He is who He says He is. He did what He said He would do. Of all the events in ancient history, Jesus’ death and resurrection is one of the most well-accepted and documented. Accounts of the event written within a lifetime*, first-hand witnesses, the change in the disciples and their willingness to give up their lives, and the very growth of the church itself all attest to its truth. Christ lives and Death has died.
Our faith has purpose — extreme imperative importance. Our Sundays are not time squandered away, but joining together with the body, being encouraged and receiving our marching orders. Our memorizations and devotions are not cluttering up our minds, but changing them more into the likeness of our King who will soon return. The sufferings and persecutions, the jail times and death of the believers around the world are not meaningless — they are the stands of the faithful, that will be rewarded with crowns and eternal acclaim.
If Christ isn’t risen, we shouldn’t bother about church. But He is. So let’s take seriously our faith. Let us praise Him with every breath we have, dancing in the light of His glory and grace. Let us use every moment in service to Him, knowing our labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58)
He is risen. He is risen indeed. And so I’ll go to church to celebrate that.
Even in nine degree weather.
*Something neither Caesar’s Gallic Wars nor Tacitus’ Annals has, though both are accepted as accurate histories. If you would like to dig deeper into the verifiable historical accuracy of the Resurrection, Sean McDowell has some excellent resources, as does Stand To Reason.