Of the questions that I habitually ask myself (and I would also encourage you to do likewise), there is one that never fails to kindle in me a pensive mood: “What will I say when I meet God, my Maker?” There rests upon me some great fear that I should awake one morning and look wistfully back on all the latent opportunities that God presented before me, and yet, despite His amenity, find that I had done little for His glory’s sake. Inasmuch as the Word of God calls us to be ‘content’ in God (Philippians 4:11; cf. 3:7-11; 1 Timothy 6:6-8; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Hebrews 13:5), such hortative statements are not meant to quell ambition or to asphyxiate zeal. My experience oftentimes points me to the idea that we falsely attribute the continued absence of positive outcomes conveniently to “God’s timing,” rather than acknowledging laxity and indolence where it has presented itself in our lives.
I am convinced that such misinformed morals develop from a deficient understanding of the theology of the resurrection. For all the attention we afford to Jesus’ death on the cross (and rightly so), it sometimes appears that we sell short the resurrection of Jesus Christ in whom, and through whom, we are now called to live (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:5-11). For the most part, the theological significance (and therefore, ethical implications) of Jesus’ death comes intuitively. Put simplistically, Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world (John 1:29; 3:16; Galatians 1:4; Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 2:24) – ergo, those who accept and believe in this Gospel ought to make efforts not to sin (cf. Romans 6:1-3). Jesus’ death, and our partaking in His death, serves a prophylactic purpose encouraging us to no longer participate in our old ways of life (Ephesians 2:1-3; see esp. Colossians 1:21-22).
There does not appear to be any abstruseness with respect to what we shouldn’t do; perhaps not necessarily because we have been convinced it is in keeping with biblical principles, but because the wider culture (especially those Western nations formed upon Judeo-Christian foundations) also appeals to these values. For instance, the moral value of most of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:1-17) is unequivocal, and this is abetted by the fact that most of these imperatives appear in the negative: “You shall not have other gods … You shall not make for yourself a carved image … You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain etc.”
But enigmatically, we are divorced between the theology of the Bible and a present-time, positive Christian ethic. By way of example, if hypothetically, we asked how one might, “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” (Exodus 20:8) or “honour your father and your mother” (v. 12) we are suddenly benighted and a great blanket of bewilderment sets upon most. But for those who object to my use of an Old Testament ethic (as prominent a position as the Decalogue has been, and should be, afforded in Christian doctrine), I will use a New Testament example to illustrate. Take, for instance, the marvellous passage of Matthew 6:25-33. The negative, “do not be anxious about your life” (v. 25) is comfortable for most to understand, especially in light of the following verses. The negative, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (v. 33) presents itself to most with a much greater measure of ethical ambiguity: “how do I seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness?”
There is merit in following the popular aphorism, “When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras.” Perhaps we find ourselves increasingly disconnected from the ideal of “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Ephesians 2:5) because we find ourselves increasingly disconnected from the theology of the resurrection, and the implications it should hold in the present and tangible realities of our lives.