Imagine something with me for a minute. Let’s say you’re a mortician. Yup, you work with corpses. The only human beings you encounter from 9 to 5 have no pulse. And then let’s say that their being dead starts to annoy you. It’s little things at first—the pasty skin, the unmistakable odor, the limp limbs all helpless and dumb. But you notice yourself growing increasingly irritated over time—to the point of taking personal offense—at these bodies. They don’t appreciate me. They’re such gross slobs. They are a constant drain. At the end of every day, you clock out, head home to your nice (alive) family, and berate the deceased over dinner. When dinner is over, you hop on social media to continue your rant about the long and detailed list of ways the dearly departed should shape up to be more lifelike. By the time your head hits the pillow at night, your blood is boiling.
You’d probably end up in the loony bin, right? Who feels sharply provoked when dead people do dead people things?
Okay, maybe not all Christians—just those of us with enough space between today and an overturned tombstone to forget what it was like to be a captive of the grave. One common hazard believers face is how time fades the details of why we needed Jesus in the first place.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:1-9
This is a topic I’ve been thinking about more and more over the last few years. Friends, we’re edging along the precipice of insanity. When someone who has never experienced the jarring wake-up call of Christ behaves or speaks or thinks or performs like someone who has never experienced the jarring wake-up call of Christ, that’s not some egregious crime: that’s normal in a fallen world such as this. Do you know what’s not normal in a fallen world such as this? The lightning bolt of salvation crashing through your death to create life. Every believer is a walking miracle. If it takes the blood of God to rip a human being from the grip of the grave, why would we assume we can get the job done by dressing up a skeleton and dragging it into church? Or by lobbing a bunch of rules at it while looking down our noses? We simply must stop expecting the lost to act like the saved.
Here is the gospel: love can do what the law can’t. And, just like in all the best fairytales, true love is the only cure for those under a curse.
If we feel the need to pick apart all of the things dead people do that bother us, we might not be the healthy models of Christ’s abundant life that we consider ourselves to be. Compassion, not judgment; mercy, not sacrifice: these are the order of the new day dawning. (Because aren’t we thrilled that Jesus didn’t look at us in our own expired state and sniff with disdain?) It would be a transformative practice for us to view the lost we encounter at work, on Facebook, or at the breakfast table through the loving eyes of our Savior—a Savior who was always in trouble for hanging around dead people.
I recently heard a beautiful sentiment: the first step to love is being curious. When we’re faced with the perfect chance to sling condemnation at “that stupid stiff” for doing exactly what we all do without Jesus powerfully at work within us, we can recognize it as the perfect chance for something better. Let’s pause and gently ask the stiff a thoughtful question, not to gather ammo against him but with a genuine desire to befriend him. Heck, we could even welcome him over for tea. (Hey, you never know: it worked with Zacchaeus.)
Coming alive is less about boot camp and more about romance. Intrigue. Invite. Inspire. Follow the winsome way of a King who grinned and said, “Come and see.” It’s only when we stop smacking dead people with the cross, and take it up in love, that we’ll witness graves gaping empty and hearts beating big.