After describing the resurrection as “of first importance” in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul goes on to get even more specific:
“…If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith also is vain…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…if we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
(1 Corinthians 15.14,17,19)
I once had a very well-meaning Sunday school teacher who said something to the effect that if it turns out that Christianity is not true, there is still no better way to live. His basic point, I think, was that a life characterized by Christian virtue, service, and sacrifice is a worthwhile way to spend our time on earth, even if we are ultimately incorrect about everything we claim and there is no eternity in view afterwards. I appreciate the sentiment, but I disagree, and the reason I disagree is that in light of Paul’s words above, I am pretty sure he would disagree.
If Jesus was not raised and this is all there is, Paul wouldn’t say, “Oh well, we were mistaken, but there’s no better way that we could have lived.” Instead, he would say that life was all a tragic joke, and that Christians were the butt of it. Of all people, we are most to be pitied.
This, I think, is cause for reflection: what if this is all there is?
If this is all there is, my career is a waste of time. I am nothing more than a delusional mentor to young people, feeding them false information and false hope, encouraging them to grow up to be as deluded as I am.
If this is all there is, I am foolish for staying in such a meaningless career that doesn’t compensate me nearly as well as countless others would.
If this is all there is, efforts at self-denial make no sense. Why should I deny myself anything? I have a limited time of existence, and I need to make the most of it by doing what I want, for as long as I can, as often as I can.
If this is all there is, then my beautiful daughter’s diseased and disabled life is the random byproduct of cosmic chance. There is no meaning, and no hope for something better in the future.
If this is all there is, any notion of turning the other cheek or loving my enemies is dangerous nonsense that should be disregarded immediately. Love those who would do me harm? Not retaliate when I am attacked? These are not natural responses, and they are not generally beneficial to me.
If this is all there is, why should I forgive? Oh sure, there are people who are an important part of my life who I want to be on good terms with and sometimes forgiveness is necessary to keep the peace and make life more pleasant. But a lot of times it is easier to write people off and forget about them than to forgive them.
If this is all there is, why spend so much time and effort in how I interact with people? Why be so careful about what I say and how I say it on social media? Why be careful about the way I act when I drive? Why be careful about the way I respond to people with whom I disagree?
If this is all there is, why the sleepless nights of concern over my students and the decisions they make, or over problems at church?
If this is all there is, I am giving up a lot of good opportunities for sleep on Sunday mornings.
If this is all there is, why spend my life doing anything but those things that make me happy, or bring me some level of satisfaction, or enforce my standards and values upon the world?
I do not believe this is all there is.
Because the tomb was empty.
That gives me hope that there is more to the Story than the Broken Now, and that hope gives me the courage to continue to live in a way that makes no sense if this is all there is.