The simplest expression of our faith – the most elegant solution in the universe.
It is so simple that the Apostle Paul was able to explain it to the Corinthian believers using only two verbs:
Christ died for our sins, and he was raised on the third day.
Baptism captures this simplicity with one beautiful picture. When going into the water, believers are identified with Christ’s death. Emerging from the water identifies us with his resurrection.
Two verbs with immense implications: “Christ died” wins forgiveness of sins. We are declared “not guilty” because the punishment we deserved was placed on him. We become acceptable to God not because of our own works but because of his work. “Christ raised” thrusts us into new life – a resurrection life that results in rescue not just from spiritual death, but physical death as well. As new creations, we experience restoration of our souls; as restored souls we are invited to participate in restoring the world around us – both spiritually and physically.
Two verbs require a complete response. Christ died means dying to ourselves – repentance. We turn from our idols and follow Jesus. We believe by faith in his perfect work on the cross and provision for our sins which make us instantly and completely acceptable to God. Christ raised means that we must follow. There is simply no “turning from” without a “turning to.” We enter into a life where he makes us into new creations who become more like Christ. Therefore, we increase in holiness, we preach the gospel, we help the poor, we heal the sick, we stand for justice, we defend the weak, and we do all of the other things we see Jesus doing in the Gospels.
Why did James say that religion was “true” only when we care for widows and orphans in their distress? Because it is only part of the gospel to say that Jesus died for our sins. Calling people to merely trust Jesus to forgive their sins is calling people to respond to only half the gospel. We must call them to identify not only with “Christ died” but with “Christ raised.” We must invite them to follow – to experience transformation and to labor for transformation of the world around us. Therefore, we work to both save souls and to help the poor.
One of the most significant sources of distress for the poor in the US today is lack of health care. Many of the 50 million Americans without health coverage are either foreign-born residents or low-income families with an annual household income of less than $25,000. This fact should motivate all who believe in true religion. Poor people, even undocumented poor people, without health care should be an unacceptable condition for all those who believe the whole gospel. However, when Health Care Reform was upheld by the Supreme Court last week, my Facebook newsfeed erupted with the complaints of angry Christians. It saddened me that many Christians appealed to personal liberties or the Constitution, seeming to ignore the implications of “Christ raised” in their political rhetoric. I believe that our gospel mission, not what best preserves our constitutional rights, should inform our political views. I believe that when we turn to Christ, we must turn from our idol of personal liberty.
So, here is my challenge to those who oppose Health Care Reform: If you seek to repeal health care reform, please let it be because you feel that your fight will ultimately be most beneficial to the poor (as some genuinely believe) and not because you feel it violates your rights. As believers, we relinquish our rights in light of the gospel and we submit to a much higher authority than the Constitution. If you believe Health Care Reform hurts the poor, then you should fight against it and work toward a better solution. If you fight Health Care Reform because you don’t like higher taxes – or you don’t like the government interfering into your private life – or because you believe it to be unconstitutional, then I would challenge you to reconsider your view in light of the gospel. When we cling to our rights as Americans over fulfilling our obligations to the poor, we distort the message of the gospel. The gospel is not about what’s fair (thank God), but about restored people who bring restoration to the whole world.
Christie, Les, Number of people without health insurance climbs, September 13, 2011, money.cnn.com/2011/09/13/news/economy/census_bureau_health_insurance/index.htm, accessed July 2, 2012.