A few years ago we (here at Trinity) went through a study by Andy Stanley in which he would repeat a central thought- "there are things that people resist about Christianity, that Christians themselves should resist." It's a good and pretty straightforward thought: there are things about Christian culture that drive people away, that themselves are counter to or not consistent with what being a disciple of Jesus really is about. Examples are easy and numerous, such as legalism, judgmental attitudes, politics, fear of people who are different, moral inconsistency, and a tendency to self-segregate ourselves from the 'bad sinful world.' Indeed, these are traits of Christian culture that should be resisted, as they are offensive both to the Gospel and the unbelieving world around us. But there's a reality that Stanley didn't acknowledge (and in fairness, it wasn't his point): as offensive as these things are, they are NOT what is most offensive about Christianity.
The Gospel and Christian message is offensive to the world because it demands that we acknowledge our sin. It is offensive because it requires that we surrender our own self-sovereignty and place God on the throne of our lives. The Gospel is offensive because it unapologetically proclaims that there is a hope, a truth, and a path that leads to rightness with God. In fact, in our post-modern culture, the Gospel is offensive because it asserts that there is such as thing as spiritual truth in and of itself. But more than all of these, if you look at Christian History starting with Paul standing before the Roman Governor Felix in the book of Acts, the great unforgivable offense of Christianity is our foundational hope of Resurrection.
If Christ is raised from the dead, then everything Jesus taught and claimed is unquestionably true, and He is unquestionably God. A dominant worldview predicated on relative truth and lordship of self will never tolerate this.
If Christ is raised from the dead, and the believer possesses the certainty of this same hope (indeed, that we have entered into this hope already), then we possess a source of Life and hope greater than anything this temporary world can offer. For a culture demanding we find our life, hope, acceptance and joy in what it offers (at great expense by the way), a people set free from that cultures tyranny of thought, and who don't need what it's selling, is absolutely untenable.
If Christ is raised from the dead, then death itself has been defeated and holds no fear for the followers of Jesus who see themselves as having participated in this same resurrection. The abhorrence of this to the elites of history and their systems of power cannot be overstated. To quote N.T. Wright from his book 'Surprised by Hope:'
Who, after all, was it who didn't want the dead to be raised? Not simply the intellectually timid or the rationalists. It was, and is, those in power, the social and intellectual tyrants and bullies; the Ceasars who would be threatened by a Lord of the world who had defeated the tyrant's last weapon, death itself; the Herods who would be horrified at the postmortem validation of the true King of the Jews.
Friends, if Christ is raised from the dead, and as his disciples we now share (and will fully share) in the absolute reality of that resurrection, then all the rules that used to govern life- why we have hope, what we do when we are in crisis, the very lens through which we view both history and the future- have changed! Quite literally, a new worldview has been introduced, a worldview that springs from the reality of a new creation. To quote Wright one more time:
This hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful, and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world.
I would add to Wright's statement that this same worldview of resurrection also means that the cultural elites do not have the last word. Sin does not have the last word. My and your brokenness, weakness, and failures do not have the last word. Your past, your shame, and fear will not have the last word! Because Christ IS raised from the dead, and In Christ we too have entered into His resurrection, then Hope has the last word! Ultimate hope for the world to come, but also hope for you: for goodness, redemption, freedom, and new life, where you are, right now. Resurrection welcomes us, today, into the land of beginning again! And unlike the political, economic, and cultural Herod's of history, may our response to this amazing truth be Hallelujah, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Hallelujah!
With you in Hope,
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable,
and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:
“Death has been swallowed up in victory!"
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55 (NIV)