“17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Cor 15:17-19)
I have lived for some big chunks of my life pretty much fully immersed in “the world” and other chunks- like my current life- immersed “in the Way”. It means in real terms that I can relate intimately to the concept of ‘being in, but not of the world’. I have thrown myself into the affairs of this world wholeheartedly- I’m a passionate dude. And I have gone deep into the religio-spiritual realm finding an intense Catholic soul within me. Some of my older friends may prefer the first version of me, but my closest friends of today- my wife being my best friend- certainly prefer Mr. Catholic. My own take is that the most important consideration is the Truth over and above my lifestyle and personal morals.
I see very often that those who are immersed in the Catholic/Christian world seem outraged that the secularists/agnostics/atheists out there are not very nice in their communications re: Christians, the Catholic Church, Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the Saints- and of course the “Religious Right”. For myself, I do get upset but I comprehend that this is perfectly consistent. If you don’t believe that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity- well you aren’t going to find a lot of common ground with those who do- beyond maybe a measure of national pride, and some sports and entertainment cross-over interests. You also are not going to feel compelled to hold back on poking fun at the “Believers” who are pretty silly taking ‘tooth-fairy’-like beliefs into adulthood. Now, in polite society nobody wants to directly offend anyone, so for the most part the mockery is delivered via internet, or offered up by the ‘artist’ class in movies, tv shows and the like using Jesus/his believers as punching bags or objects of comic derision. The Muslims and Jews have been declared off-limits to a degree for differing reasons- fears of anti-Semitic accusations and fears for personal safety- roughly speaking. But Catholics and Protestant Evangelicals are pretty weak in defending their turf- so we get punked and worked over the most in the mainstream.
It all comes down to 1 Cor 15:17-19 for me- if indeed the God-Man I worship as my Lord Jesus Christ, did not in fact resurrect and sit at the right hand of the Father- then I am to be pitied more then any other man. I should expect that those who don’t believe will see me as being silly at best, and pathetic or dangerous at the worst. I say to them- “Quite so..if you are right about Jesus- but if I am right then it all gets very interesting!”. So how is this to be resolved?
First, the historical evidence probably goes both ways since professional historians hardly seem agreed for or against Christ. I’ve read ‘The Case for Christ’ and other investigations that make a run at proving Jesus Christ using modern historical reasoning from various evidences. I’m sure there are anti-Christ historians picking and choosing their way to completely different conclusions. For me though, the proof is in the pudding- it is experiential after seeing that the will could go for or against Jesus Christ, just like one can decide for or against the existence of God based on observation of the universe in action. When I have been going “in the Way” I find a different bloke inside of me- one that I prefer, and one in touch with eternally-satisfying perceptions. The worldly-me was a pretty fun guy but if I scratch the surface I can see the shallowness, and even some real scoundrel-like traits. That guy is like the old man I carry on my back at times, but I’ve found that Jesus pulls a lot of that weight off of my shoulders through prayer and unexpected graces.
In conclusion- I recommend that serious believers in Christ and Church stop acting so surprised, hurt, or even offended by the many and varied insults hurled at us and the stuff of our Faith. What we should do is offer it up to God, pray genuinely for those doing the hurling- for they know not what they are doing- even if they think they do!- and these poor souls are probably ones most in need of God’s mercy- so get over the bruised feelings and FOCUS. Love your enemies- welcome those who persecute you because of your love for Jesus Christ- non-believers and the lukewarm are probably not going to find a reason to second-think their dislike for hard-core Christians and/or Christ, if all they get is whiny tongue-lashings in return for their errant attacks. To turn the other cheek means to me that we either engage positively or we just turn away- kick the dust off our sandals and utter some prayers as we hit the door. To engage positively would mean that we take serious challenges- seriously, not blow off the notion that believing in a Resurrection 2000 years ago and a Heaven that awaits- well that takes guts/will/intellectual assent to something Mankind has longed for as a hope against all hope- and is now posited as Truth- an all or nothing thing- and some see nothing in it but wishful thinking or patriarchial power grabbing. If we truly have such a Faith then we must be bold enough to share it and encourage others to take this Path that is completely life-changing over to the Ultra-Positive Living approach that is actual Christian Discipleship. The cost of such Discipleship is everything- which is why Suburbia Christianity often seems like a bit of a sneak or cheat- the prosperity gospel instead of the body and blood of Christ Gospel.
The message to the Christ/Christian mockers out there must be one that is delivered in a different Spirit- the Spirit of God is not snide and petty; it is one that is straight-forward, it is confident, it is loving, bold, compassionate- picture Truth and Love merged as One and communicating- (that is The Word, Made Flesh). Believe It. Live It. You will see with the eyes of Faith- everything can change- you can change- He can change you- do you see a glaring need for change within you? Think about it all night if need be.