“He is risen!” read the headline of a newsletter of a Christian ministry I received yesterday. I was taken aback. No! I thought. He hasn’t even died yet. Heck, he hasn’t even been crucified, what’s the rush?
My issue is not so much that not all people follow the liturgical calendar. I am notoriously bad in remembering the important days of Christianity (except Christmas). No, it’s just that too many Christians want to skip Friday. They don’t want to be reminded of it. They desire to relegate the shame of the cross to a historical event in the past. It’s over now, they say, he’s risen! Which is code language for: we live in victory.Large swaths of Christianity do indeed think that after the resurrection it is no longer appropriate to dwell with the crucifixion except to preach forgiveness of sins. They think we should live in and out of the power of the resurrection from day to day.
Let’s not fool ourselves. It’s effect on Christian discourse and Christian spirituality makes itself felt when this attitude holds sway. Worry not, He’s risen! How can you still live in sin when the power to conquer satan is freely available for all? Forced talk about the resurrection as something the power of which we should experience in our lives on a daily basis. Resurrection means victory means overcoming sin means sanctification means the power of the Spirit unto a glorious life, etc.
The other day I reposted something I wrote on Facebook two years ago:
“Christ is risen.” This is at the center of the faith of the early Christians. There is no Christianity without belief in the resurrection. This exclamation of joy, however, comes in the midst of darkness and suffering. The veil has not been lifted. Death is still our enemy. The cross still stands tall as the symbol of our existence. Therefore cross and empty tomb belong together. Without the resurrection the cross offers no hope. Without the cross, however, the resurrection becomes the rallying cry of cheap grace.
If we take a brief look at our world today, what do we see? Misery, suffering, exploitation, violence, death, ecological destruction, poverty, racism, depression, anxiety, natural disasters, deadly diseases, human trafficking, slavery, suicide. The list could go on. This world is full of people who are absolutely desperate. Million upon million are at the brink of giving up. They see no way out of their misery.
What does a victorious Christianity mean to them? Nothing. The exuberant enthusiasm that such Christianity exudes places it beyond the reach of the destitute. Preaching a risen Christ as the hope of immortality is offering a moot promise to those who, under the unbearable weight of this life, want only one thing: the annihilation of their existence.
The message of the suffering Christ is much more meaningful for humanity today than a jubilant pretense of a resurrection that has arrived here and now. Christ may have risen, but the resurrection is not here. At least not ours. We may live in the hope of this resurrection but should stop pretending we’ve got it.
Only those who linger in the dust and dwell in the shadows of life, can be, like the Christ who, as the incarnated Word, suffered humanity’s sufferings on the cross, a comforter and friend of the millions that have no hope. Only those, who with Christ have the guts to cry out: “My God, why have you forsaken me” (and its takes guts, because that is were all pretense is gone) can both understand and provide hope to the wretched of the earth.
Can we stop pandering cheap grace? We should rally around the cross. There we wait with those who sit in darkness hoping for the light. There we wait for Sunday. And it may take a while.