The Common Good

Jim Wallis : The Victory (Part 3)

I am on spring break with my family this week. As we approach Good Friday and Easter, I wanted to share with you the concluding chapter to my book, The Call to Conversion. It's a reflection on the cross and resurrection, "The Victory." It will be posted in three parts: Below is the final installment. I wish all of you a happy and Holy Easter.

What about you and me today? Do we still doubt that this kind of love makes much sense in our complex technological world? Does the way of suffering servanthood seem out of place in our world of huge and powerful institutions? That doubt was the experience of the disciples between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. They, too, felt overwhelmed by the powers and forces that ruled the day. But they were converted. The disciples became the people of the resurrection. They began to live lives filled with the fruits of conversion. They began living in the power of the resurrection. We, too, can know the power of Christ's resurrection.

But such power will not come simply by attesting to the theological fact of the resurrection. We, like the first disciples, must come out of hiding and see the risen Lord. Seeing is believing, and believing is knowing that we must turn and follow Jesus. The wisdom of God in Jesus Christ will then be made known to the principalities and the powers through the church. The place in which the dominion of the powers is broken is the fellowship of the resurrection, the church community that nurtures growing confidence in the power of God's love. The resurrection restores broken fellowship. Because the Lord is risen, love reigns where fear once controlled.

To doubt or be suspicious of the power of that love is to doubt the resurrection. The doubting, suspecting parts of our lives are yet unhealed because we have not been converted; we have still to receive the love that would heal us and change the world.

We are invited to celebrate the victory of Christ and to live in the world showing we believe it to be true. We are invited to experiment with its truth by risking our security, comfort, resources, time, energy, and our very lives for the sake of his victory. We are called to be those who have left all and risked everything in testifying to his victory. We are called to demonstrate to the world, with our lives, that we have been converted by the resurrection.

The basis of our faith is that Jesus Christ is stronger than any of the powers that confront us: political tyranny, economic oppression, the logic of war. We confront the world's powers not merely with our own strength, resources, ideas, commitment, work, or resistance. Rather, we confront the world with the very life of the resurrected Christ among us.

Like Jesus' other disciples, who were controlled by their fear, we can be converted by seeing the resurrected Christ. Whenever we act in obedience to Christ, we are demonstrating his victory. Every time we act upon Jesus' lordship in our lives, are reconciled to a brother or sister, refuse to be controlled by the economic system, deny the absolute authority of the state, claim Christ's freedom over our fear, tear down the walls of race, class, and sex, love our enemies, stand with the poor, or resist the violence of the nations by acting for peace - we are demonstrating the victory of Christ in the world. His victory is present wherever it is claimed and acted upon. We are those who evaluate themselves and the whole world in the light of Christ's victory.

Preaching the cross and the resurrection of Jesus is foolishness to those who perish. Yet, fools for Christ formed the early church. As that tiny band of believers grew, the world could see the power in such foolishness.

That same foolishness is the only hope we have of breaking free from the present realities that so gravely threaten us. Only in the recognition of something that is more real can we see their authority as unreal. The greatest threat to any system is the existence of fools who do not believe in the ultimate reality of that system. Indeed, the first step in making new realities possible is to break free from the grip and the authority of the old realities. To repent and to believe in a new reality - that is the essence of conversion. We join the body of Christ whose purpose is to make visible this new reality in the world.

Without the resurrection, the defeated followers of Jesus would have simply faded away. He would have been just another prophet who was killed. But the resurrection vindicated the cross and validated the way of Jesus, establishing the authority of his Lordship. At the same time, the resurrection invalidated the authority of the system. It showed the world's way to be a lie. The world's definition of reality crucified Jesus. His resurrection proved that definition of reality to be false. Our system, too, has its definitions of reality - national security, economic expansion, political realism. The way of Jesus is thought to be as foolish today as it was in his day. His kingdom is totally alien to the present world order.

If we believe the resurrection, the world will consider us unreasonable, unrealistic, irresponsible, and irrelevant. A world full of incredible foolishness, of myths called "truths" and of lies called "logic," will insist that we are the fools. Yet the resurrection convinces us of God's wisdom. We finally know God's power to heal us and to transform our relationship to the world.

On Easter morning, and each day of our lives, we celebrate the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which triumphs over every other reality. In the face of the world and its systems, we proclaim the resurrection, saying, "We have seen the Lord." We see him in the lives of our brothers and sisters. We discover him in the faces of the poor, in the faces of all the victims, and in the faces of our children. We see him in the lives of Christians who have suffered and died because they believed. And we see the Lord in the bread and the wine. He shows us, as he did his disciples, the evidence of his suffering. He invites us to reach out, take, eat, and drink; he wants us to remember him, to see him, and to know his victory.

His way is life. The world's way is death. We can now stand before the world's false realities and securities, free to deny them, denounce them, and remove ourselves from them. We stand before the reality of the resurrection and confess with the first disciples that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

We stand before the world as fools. We are foolish enough to believe that Jesus' way is stronger and more true than the way of the world. We rest secure in the knowledge that he has, and will, overcome. We are called to be fools for Christ, a people saved by his cross and converted, finally, by his resurrection.

May God convert us to such foolishness.

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