This commentary describes the personal benefits that come from uniting our lives to Christ’s risen life. How the Resurrection Helps Me gives teachers more ideas for helping their students decide to join their lives to Christ. It also supplies teachers with additional commentary for my Teaching The Resurrection Series.
The New Possibility for Our Lives
Most students cannot explain how the Resurrection helps them. So, it is our job as teachers to inspire them to know and desire its benefits. To do this, our best approach is to involve them in the story as told by the first twelve Apostles.
We religion teachers are their successors.
Through His apostles Christ invited everyone, everywhere to unite his or her life to His risen life.* In a letter to the Christian church in Corinth, St. Paul described the reward for those who accepted this gift: “You then, are the body of Christ. Every one of you is a member of it.” (1 Cor. 12:27)
So what exactly does that text mean to each of us? What is our reward for becoming members of the Body of Christ?
To answer this question I will first summarize the message. Next I will show Paul in action—trying to teach it to a difficult group of new converts. His struggle with both his own impatience and the resistance of the converts makes for dramatic reading.
The Spiritual Body—St. Paul
In order to define this concept, we must first realize that we are dealing with two miracles that can’t be fully explained. Scripture tells us that Jesus’ risen body was a new life form. For want of a better word, Paul termed it a “spiritual body.” (I Cor 15:44)
Second, we must realize that at the moment we are baptized into the Body of Christ, another miracle occurs. Paul explains it by saying, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In other words, we, the baptized, have a new, divine energy that is driven by the power of Christ’s love. This new energy expands our capacity to feel peace, love, comfort, and joy. It also destines us for heaven after this lifetime. But just as important, our earthly reward is an elevated level of life, which is a more satisfying way to live.
These wonderful feelings are just one of the many ways how the Resurrection helps me.
Examples: How the Resurrection Helps Me
Because the opportunity for us to live in Christ’s risen life was created by His resurrection, we Christians believe it was the most important event in the history of the world.
To help us understand the experience of living in Christ, our Lord offered a comparison. He said, “I am the vine and you are the branches” (John 15:5). This image tells us that His divine life nourishes our own spiritual lives in the same way that a grapevine carries nourishment to its branches. And, the form of the nourishment is His love (John 15:9).
In many ways, some of Paul’s converts were similar to our students. The converts were losing their enthusiasm for Christianity. For example, they claimed that life was too boring when they followed the rules of Christian morality. They felt it was more fun to be a pagan.
While our young people do not want to be pagans, some do have a problem with enthusiasm for the Christian lifestyle.
Trouble in Corinth Besets Paul
Paul’s success in inspiring these complainers to become happy Christians shows us that he was a really great teacher. We teachers, therefore, should pay attention to him. So let’s take a look at what he did for the grumbling new converts in Corinth. Perhaps we might even find that we like some of his material.
Around 56 A.D., Paul left his ministry in Corinth and went to Ephesus to establish another new church. One day, he received the first of a series of letters from the leaders of the church in Corinth. All were requests for advice regarding a storm, caused by the new converts, who wanted to continue engaging in immoral pagan practices.
Paul’s return letters were later combined to form the book of the Bible titled Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. It contains the best description ever written about the personal benefits of the Resurrection.
During the years of Paul’s ministry Corinth was viewed by Christians as the “sin capital” of the Mediterranean world, much like a giant Playboy Club. Corinth was a seaside city with a busy harbor. Most of the townspeople worshiped Aphrodite, the godess of fertility. In so doing, they made full use of the hundreds of “sacred” prostitutes who lived in the Temple of Aphrodite during the day and worked the streets at night. And, sailors on leave from their ships filled the taverns and chased the girls. Party time was all the time in downtown Corinth.
In contrast to this party lifestyle, Christians practiced fidelity in marriage, modesty in dress, and drank in moderation.
Paul Teaches Converts How the Resurrection Helps Them
Paul’s message to the rebellious new converts encourages them to see the advantages of the Christian lifestyle. Since the story reads like a drama, I will present my description of it as a play in three scenes. This dialog is not biblical, but it is true to the spirit of the events.
The Converts’ Question
Cast of Characters in Order of Appearance
Gaius: Paul’s secretary and traveling companion
Paul: the Apostle who founded the church in Corinth
Church Leader: one of the men who administers the church in Corinth
Converts’ Spokesman: an unhappy convert who is a member of the church in Corinth
(Paul and Gaius are sitting on a veranda overlooking the seashore near Ephesus. Gaius is reading Paul’s mail to him.)
Gaius: Ah! Here is a letter from our leaders in Corinth. They seem a bit angry with you, Paul. They describe difficulties with your new converts. Listen to this:
“That bunch of ex pagans you added to our church are growing rowdy. After they lived for a while without the pleasures of Aphrodite, they have given us no peace. They constantly ask us what they can do for fun now that they are Christians! They are very slow to catch on to the rewards of the Christian lifestyle! All they do is complain that Christian morality is too strict. Please give us some advice. Tell us what they can do for fun?”
(Paul, well-known for his quick temper, jumps up and responds in anger.)
Paul: So, they miss the pleasures of the flesh, do they? What is wrong with them? They can’t live like pagans and still be Christians! Are they leaving the church?
Gaius: Calm down, Paul. Things can’t be that serious.
Paul (impatient): Maybe! But maybe not! Pick up your pen, Gaius. I will send my answer. Now!
(The congregation in Corinth is meeting in a leader’s home for the Sunday service. The people are seated. The Church Leader holds up a letter and begins to read it in a scolding tone of voice.)
Church Leader: Good morning. Today we have a letter from Apostle Paul, which I shall read to you. After we learned that some of you were not happy with the restrictions of Christianity, we wrote to him, asking him to advise you. This is Paul’s reply:
“To my brothers and sisters in Christ, who think the Christian lifestyle too difficult. I find your question, ‘What can we do for fun?’ distressing. This is the wrong question. It is wrong because it deals only with physical pleasures.
(1 Cor. 6:15-20): “Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually part of Christ? Should a man take his body, which is a part of Christ, to a prostitute? Never! And don’t you realize that if a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? Run from sexual sin. No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”
Converts’ Spokesman (Stands and addresses Church Leader): What kind of answer is that? He insults us. Write to Paul again. Repeat our question. What we can do for enjoyment if we give up the pagan ways. What is allowed? Ask him to be specific.
How the Resurrection Helps Me Enjoy Life
In his next letters to the Corinthians, we see that Paul summoned his patience and composed what became his most famous text, Hymn to Love (1 Cor. 13). In this part of his letter, Paul sought to impress the converts with the beauty of their new identity. To present the full sweep of how it feels to live a life inspired by Christ’s love, I suggest the teacher read aloud to the class all of 1 Corinthians 13. It is especially magnificent. In fact, Prof. Thomas Cahill describes it as a “Hymalayan peak of world literature.” **
What I see in these passages is that Paul urged the converts to view themselves in a new way. They were no longer “playboys.” They were holy. And, as they joined more fully into the activities of the Christian community, they would feel their sense of holiness growing stronger and stronger every day.
Paul urged them to worship together and proclaim the Good News to others. If they did so, Paul explained, their personalities would be transformed. Inner joy would replace the fleeting excitement they found on the streets. They would would feel less anxiety, and their desire to sin would steadily weaken.
Was Paul’s ministry to the church in Corinth successful? Details are hard to find. But, we do know that the church in Corinth continued to grow. Before long, the Temple of Aphrodite was Christianized.
How the Resurrection Helps Me Become Holy
Paul’s wise counsel to the new converts helps us as much as it did the converts. Whenever we, today, ponder the question, “How does the Resurrection help me,” we discover that the more we participate in the divine life that permeates the Christian community, the more the quality of our lives is elevated. In addition to inner peace, we also gain the satisfaction that comes with the sharing of talents.
Singers create beautiful music for us. Artists decorate our churches and homes. Chefs create luscious meals. Athletes draw us into exciting games. Teachers inspire us to learn. Doctors heal our wounds. Tailors make attractive clothing for us, and carpenters build comfortable homes. Caregivers minister to orphans and the poor. And, ministers encourage us to be strong in our faith.
As all of us contribute to the good of the community, our love for one another grows and life becomes more enjoyable.
This is the definition of spiritual growth. That is our fun!
Nurturing Our Life in Christ
Christ’s life within us can either bloom or it can fade. If we wish to continue living a life inspired by His love, we must regularly nourish our relationship with Him. Traditional methods are: daily prayer, Sunday worship, participation in the activities of the church community, spiritual reading, Bible study, and joining with other Christians to do works of charity and mercy.
Some folks include more personal ways to nourish the relationship. For example, I listen to my favorite hymns as I drive to work. This puts me in a prayerful mood because I feel that Christ is speaking to me through the music. He reminds me to consider my activities during the day as ministry.
How the Resurrection Helps Me When God Seems Far Away.
When tragedies occur, we can feel forgotten by God. We might ask, “How could a loving God allow this disaster to happen to me?” Or, “Why does God answer my neighbor’s prayers, but not mine?”
I do not have answers to these questions. None of us know the mind of God. For all of us, there are times when He seems remote.
The divine life within us helps us trust that God is near. We have, however, one important thing to keep in mind. While God may not change events for us, He will surely comfort us when we turn to Him.
There is a story that illustrates this. Some years back, when I was attending an ecumenical biblical seminar, I found myself sitting next to an elderly nun in full habit. This was a strange sight because nuns by then wore modern clothing. When I cocked my head and lifted an eyebrow, she laughed, raised her skirt enough to reveal knee-high hiking boots. Then she winked at me.
Of course I was immediately enchanted by her radiant demeanor. As is common at these events, we shared our stories. And hers certainly topped mine!
The Nun in Prison
Four years earlier, the elderly nun and her pastor had been working as missionaries in North Korea. One cold November morning they were arrested, stripped of their clothing, and shoved—naked—into two adjoining cells at the unheated dungeon of a Korean jail. Of course they prayed for help. Then, several weeks into their ordeal, a package containing long underwear arrived for the pastor. He kept the bottoms and she wore the top.
It took three years of negotiations to obtain their release. Soon after I asked if there were times when her faith faltered, and I will always remember her answer. She said, “I was never so close to Jesus as I was when I had nothing.” she said. “But now,” she chuckled, “I have something. These boots. I love them. After all those years of frozen feet, I am sure they are a gift from Jesus.”
Talk about How the resurrection helps me! I was both inspired and humbled. This nun never forgot that she lived in the Risen Life of Christ.
How the Resurrection Helps Me and the World
While our role in Christ’s plan for saving the world is vital, His plan is larger than you and me. When we share His love, it flows through us and into the world. It gains momentum and grows.
A New Heaven and a New Earth
The fulfillment of the Second Coming will be the day that all creation is filled with His divine love (Rev. 21:1-3).
* There are several names for the divine life. Some are: God, God’s love, grace, Risen Life, and Life of Christ. These terms are often used interchangeably. Different denominations favor different words.
** Prof. Thomas Cahill, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, page 136.