When we think about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our imagination is flooded with connections. From the iconic image of an empty tomb to memories of egg hunts and giant bunnies, this fundamental Christian doctrine conjures up a number of thoughts and questions for believers and unbelievers alike. But what we may not think about when we think about the Resurrection might just be the most important thing of all—the implications for our everyday lives, specifically our work and our jobs.
There’s a well-earned stigma around Christians and work, especially things like art and entertainment. Most people—and that includes actual Christians—think of it as shoddy and kitschy, second-rate at best. As Gregory Thornbury, president of King’s College in New York City, once said, “‘Christian’ is the greatest of all nouns and the lamest of all adjectives.”
Of course, things haven’t always been this way. Throughout history, Christians actually led the way when it came to culture. Michelangelo, Beethoven, Lewis, Eliot—there is an endless list of Christians who dominated the arts for a span of centuries. And while a negativity emerged around the 20th century, there doesn’t seem to be one silver-bullet reason for why we’ve gotten where we are now with Christians and art.
In a culture and faith growing further from tradition and orthodoxy, it seems that one way we might start to set things right again is by reclaiming a proper understanding of the Resurrection. Yet, most Christians don’t see the relevance of the Resurrection when it comes to work and culture. They see the Resurrection as a doctrine related to the personal, not the cultural—the theoretical, not the practical.
God uses His people to bring a sense of heaven to earth, as He will completely and wholly, once and for all, in the resurrection and restoration of all things.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ, however, is as much about work and vocation as it is anything else. In his book Surprised by Hope, theologian N.T. Wright unpacks this idea:
The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom.
The Resurrection is not only about the deity of Christ and the defeat of Satan and sin. It’s also about the beginning of a new creation and the reality that, as Christ was resurrected, we too will be resurrected—and all of creation will be resurrected. And we live in this reality today, letting the implications of the Resurrection affect everything that we do—including all of the things that we do and make. In other words, God uses His people to bring a sense of heaven to earth, as He will completely and wholly, once and for all, in the resurrection and restoration of all things.
There’s surely a deep mystery within this understanding of the Resurrection. Somehow, the work that we do now—the art we make, the systems we manage, the goods and services we provide—is not temporal but eternal. The movies, the music, the paintings, the designs, the sculptures, the food, the products—they’re not merely a signpost or foretaste of what is to come because of the Resurrection; they’re actually a part of that Resurrection and story.
When we think of our work in this way—in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ—it makes us see it differently. It makes us want to do better. It makes us want everything that we do to be marked by the same truth, goodness and beauty that is found in the triune God of the Bible. It makes us want to take N.T. Wright at his word, as he describes the implications of the gospel—and, thus, the Resurrection:
The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even—heaven help us—Biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way…with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom.
The Resurrection compels us to not only share the good news of the gospel through our work but also to do better work. When we do this, we live out the mandate given to us at creation. And as we sustain and care for culture, we get a foretaste of the new creation that we see in Revelation 21 and 22: a new heaven and new earth, the New Jerusalem, where all things will be made new again, which includes the gifts we’ve been given and the work that we do.