Community Catechesis: Resurrection and the Good Life

Photo of a medium-sized black and white dog outside, in the sun, looking contented beneath the branches of a cherry blossom tree.
Photo by Jake Weirick, https://unsplash.com/@weirick

The New Testament speaks of resurrection from two distinct angles: 1) the resurrection of Jesus and 2) the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection of Jesus—his departure from the grave—was the vindication of his mission, his elevation beyond all worldly authorities and dominion (Col 1:15-20). In rising from the dead, Jesus was declared to be Son of God with “power according to the spirit of holiness” (Romans 1:4). His resurrection was not a zombie-like return to life as we know it, but the transformation of life itself. It is why Paul describes Jesus’ resurrected body as a “life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45). Unlike the first Adam who received the breath of life, the second Adam, Jesus, gives life to mortal flesh. The nature of the resurrection body brings us to the resurrection of the dead in general. In the time when the New Testament was written, the resurrection of the dead was thought to be a general event which would involve the resurrection of all who are deceased. This is why the resurrection of Jesus is often framed as the beginning of a more general phenomenon where the risen Christ is “the first fruits of those who have died” (1 Cor 15:20). Just as trees are the fully developed form of the seeds from which they emerged, so the risen body is the full flower of the physical body: “What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.” (1 Cor 15:42) As such, the Risen Christ is the living image of the good life—life clothed in God’s glory.

The good life is our conception of what it means to flourish. It is an important political concept because our conception of flourishing provides standards by which we assess our current way of living. Right now, the dominant conception of flourishing says that to live the good life you must market yourself, so as to acquire wealth and success through hard work. This kind of thinking has led to the elimination of all kinds of social support with the thought being: “If you did not earn it, then you do not deserve it.” Many people are left without a place to live, or food to eat, and this is supposed to be okay because they could, apparently, solve this by just trying harder. But if the Risen Christ is both ruler above all worldly authorities and dominions and the first fruits of our collective glorification, then we don’t have to accept this dominant conception of flourishing as ultimately authoritative, especially not when it has proven harmful to ourselves and others. Our desire to live dignified and happy lives is not something that we need to bottle up as we slog through a brutal and death-dealing society. In fact, when Paul says that Creation groans and longs for its redemption (Romans 8:19-24) he suggests that our desire for more livable lives is itself a longing for the kind of life of which the risen Jesus is the living image. In short, we do not have to accept the standards of living that are presented to us for we have another account of what it means to live and live well.

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