“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband to them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
After the death of the King of Judah, Josiah, it got very rough for Jeremiah, who faced constant opposition from the prevailing political and religious leaders of his day. He preached repentance, and capitulation to the hoards of Babylonian soldiers invading Judah, and the leaders didn’t want to hear such talk. He was proven correct, nevertheless, and Judah was taken captive.
Amidst all the tumult, Jeremiah represented a resurrected life, in that He heard and obeyed the voice of God, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges from others who were given far more credibility than was given to him. People don’t like to hear things that fly in the face of their feelings of self-importance; don’t want their worlds rocked or their comfort zones threatened; don’t like to see a life lived that largely transcends the values and norms of the day.
As Christians, we, as was Jeremiah and all of God’s people in the Bible, are called upon to be a resurrection people! We are to live our lives in such a way that those lives wouldn’t make any sense if God didn’t exist! The wonderful preacher, Peter J. Gomes, the minister at Harvard University, in his book, Strength for the Journey, that I strongly recommend you read, wrote the following: “Indeed, the greatest argument for the validity of the Christian life is the life of a Christian: we are the arguments for the resurrection; we are the living roots for the existence of God.” (p. 281)
Now, it must be understood up front that Christians harbor the same “old man” that non-Christians possess! We are no different in that way, and to assume and preach that we are does violence both to the truth and to people’s perceptions of Christianity. We are no better, not necessarily more “moral,” and no more worthy than anyone else in the eyes of God! It must always be remembered that God imputes “worthiness” to us! That fact is what is meant by the term “grace!” The fact that He has imputed that “worthiness” to us from the foundation of the world (e.g., Ephesians 1:4) is called “prevenient grace!”
“Grace” means God’s unmerited favor to those whom He has chosen before the worlds were formed to be sanctified, to be set apart to do a work for Him. In that sense, all Christians, LGBT and Straight, are called upon to be Apostles, “sent out ones,” to spread the good news of the Gospel of grace, faith, love, peace, reconciliation, inclusiveness, and liberation to all those who have the ears to hear and the “antenna” to receive that good news. In order to succeed in fulfilling our ministries, we must not only reckon ourselves to be, but actually realize that we are, a “resurrection people.”
By “resurrection” I mean transcendence from worshipping the many idols that this world offers us and that separate us from the knowledge that God has given each of His children a work to do. These idols take many forms: drugs, sex, alcohol, work, etc. It’s certainly ok to indulge in many of the delights that this world offers, but it’s not ok to worship or idolize them or have them in any way usurp the role of God in our lives. Indeed, when it comes to the hostile attitudes, rhetoric, and actions and, equally as egregious, the silence and inaction, of most in the institutional Church in regard to LGBT people and same-sex love, we can see the idols of “condemnation,” “discrimination,” and “self-righteousness,” which no Christian is allowed to worship or even “indulge” in!
Gay or Straight, when we listen to God and obey His call on our lives, despite what others, including other professing Christians, say about our obedience to God’s call on our lives, we show ourselves to be a resurrection people! When we love amidst hate; stand up for justice amidst cruelty and violence; when we speak truth to power amidst cowardice that frequently masks itself as “Christian”; when we care for “the least among us” amidst the world’s glorification of “success”; when we give of ourselves to others amidst an era of unbridled greed; when we remain faithful amidst people many of whom “sell out” in order to be liked and accepted; when we remain peaceful (to the degree possible) amidst uncertainty and tumult, we show ourselves to be a “resurrection people!”
We are a resurrection people when we have and show an implacable faith, an abiding trust, in a God Who doesn’t make any mistakes and, taking that knowledge, translating it into doing good, fighting for justice, seeking peace, and also translating our own life-experiences, and especially our sufferings, into ministries that comfort the afflicted!
Resurrection people make manifest to others the reality and meaning of the Christian life!
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society,” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.