Story Magazine - Fourth Quarter, 2004
From a Human Point of View
by David L. Tiede, President and Professor of New Testament
Living Hope of the Resurrection
Last month, we dedicated a magnificent sculpture in the Garden of the Resurrection at Luther Seminary. The sculptor, Jeff Barber, a graduate of Luther Seminary (M.A. '82), entitled the work "Living Hope of the Resurrection." His comments were inspiring: "I cannot see the resurrection, but I see the whole world differently in the light of the resurrection."
The Apostle Paul agreed. In the fifth chapter of his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul's testimony sings with conviction. Because Christ died and was raised, all believers have died to themselves so that now they can live for others. The chapter concludes with the declaration of God's mission and ours: "In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us."
To see the world differently, behold the crucified and risen Messiah, Jesus. To understand the mission to which Christians are called, remember God's remarkable purpose of reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them.
By the time this issue of Story reaches you, the political campaigns will have concluded in a national election. The attack ads and fierce talk about "killing our enemies" have made shameless appeals to our fears. Both parties have made shrill promises of national security through increased violence. To be sure, naïve appeals to peace will not appease the evils of terrorism, but the carnage of war must not be confused with the Christian cause.
Most of the so-called mainline denominations are mired in debates about sexual identities and behavior. Paul also had to deal with such questions in Corinth because the Christian mission moves into cultures and contexts where destructive behaviors must be curbed for the well-being of the neighbor. But Paul's apostolic witness drove to the main point: not losing its strength in the moral controversies. God's mission in Jesus' death and resurrection is centered in God's reconciliation of the world's enmity through forgiveness of sin. Christians are ambassadors for this mission. This is our calling.
Nobody says it will be easy. If you want to experience the cost of reconciliation, begin with your own family members or neighbors or a colleague at work, the one who has regularly nailed you. To use Paul's words, "from a human point of view" they deserve your disrespect. At one time, says Paul, "we knew Christ from a human point of view," which meant Paul saw him as a troublemaker and enemy of Israel. But in the light of the resurrection, Paul could no longer view Christ "in that way" (2 Cor 5.16).
The spiral of violence swirls unabated when fueled by blind hatred. To support our troops, we must face their peril and suffering. We must not avert our eyes when a soldier dies, or close our ears when a chaplain reports, "Killing wounds the souls of our young warriors. They pay a price."We also need to see the human faces of thousands of Iraqis who are dying, even the terrorists, not just their hooded bodies.
We have seen the smoldering ruins of the Twin Towers. These images have been used to justify our nation's invasion of Afghanistan, and perhaps Iraq. Even from a human point of view, justifiable war must continue to meet several standards. These are difficult judgments for which we hold our public leaders accountable. So does God.
We still know what it is to see our enemy from a human point of view, but Christ "died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view" (2 Cor 5. 15-16). Christ crucified and raised gives us new eyes to see. The righteousness of God fulfilled in forgiveness is the soul of our calling and commission. This vision illumines our Christian cause. God needs us to be about it. So does the world.