…this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death,
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.
All who believed were together and had all things in common.45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
(selections from Acts 2 – ESV)
Jon Stewart (of Daily Show fame) once waxed satirically on this passage to insist God was a socialist. Perhaps? Hmm…fun debate. Much more dangerous in the story, I think, is the sequence of resurrection to loose fingers. Christ is raised, and the Church starts living as if death lost its claim. Those things previously held tight to chest because, hey, life is short, now gets tossed around rather recklessly. The stuff kings and the professional elite took to the tomb to enjoy in the afterlife is here given to those in need. Because…resurrection.
Flannery O’Connor gives good commentary on this in her short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” The Misfit broods over his soon-to-be victim, gun in hand, and ironically plays the sage theologian, explaining the life-altering implication of Jesus’ resurrection. “He thrown everything off balance. If he did what he said then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow him, and if he didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can.”
There’s the what if? If Christ is raised, the occasion for so much fear and anxiety (death), fear and anxiety that holds tight to the treasures of this life, has been swallowed in victory. The sting is gone. In a way, my fear of losing out in this life, my anxiety over treasures in constant threat exposes a certain disbelief. Or, better put, I’m living out of the wrong story. I’m living out of a story that ends in the very thing Christ defeated. I do this every time I go to war with those who threaten my peace and comfort in the here and now, or lament the “best years” that I’ll never enjoy again, or pray to the God of personal creativity and over-work to give me a name or reputation that might outlast death. But if resurrection, then all the treasures that outlast death are already mine in Christ. They are spoils of war, generously shared by the victor.
Yes, the God-is-a-socialist debate is actually a good one. There is something about resurrection, or God’s future invading the present, that compels people to dramatize that future in the here and now by filling in the holes, erasing the needs of the needy, mending the broken places, etc. But what grips me when I read it today is more the simple liberating power of resurrection. Resurrection should free me to hold with looser grip money and possessions, and also the more prized things (at least for me) like success, reputation, time, comfort, etc.
I want resurrection-freedom. God help my unbelief.
(Postscript) I can’t help but notice too that this life of liberty is a corporate thing. The Church lives it together, encouraging belief and reminding one another to live in God’s freedom via active demonstrations. Plus, it is only together that they can live as a shocking example of freedom to a world spellbound by death’s shadow.