18 July 2006

Speaking Ethically No. 2

By Rod Benson

April 2006

As a child, the lens of an independent, fundamentalist church tradition filtered my religious experience. This meant that I grew very familiar with the Bible, but eschewed traditions such as Easter. Now older and more relaxed, I have warmed to the liturgical calendar and many of the church’s rich traditions.

None of these traditions attracts more spiritual and theological significance than Easter, recalling the affliction, death and resurrection of Jesus. We draw meaning and motivation from these great gospel events. The sufferings of Jesus are a witness to truth and righteousness, and his death is crucial for salvation – cosmic as well as personal.

But as Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 15, the rock that anchors the gospel and inspires obedience to it is the resurrection of Jesus. It is perhaps surprising that this great doctrinal chapter ends not with praise (v 57) but with a call to action (v 58). We might have expected Paul to urge his readers to look forward and heavenward. Instead, he turns their attention to the here and now. He grounds the gospel, showing that the resurrection gives meaning and direction to our day-to-day lives:

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain (v 58, NRSV).

This “work” undoubtedly includes social justice as well as evangelism; peace-makers as well as prayer-warriors; acts of mercy as well as words of proclamation; ethical action as well as spiritual formation. These are all part of the fruit of the resurrection of Jesus in our lives.

We are children of the resurrection, and God has given us spiritual and moral work to do. In view of the resurrection of Jesus, and of the future resurrection, we make it our business to address the needs and dilemmas of our world. As we do so, we have God’s word that neither our faith nor our works are in vain.

And that’s good news!

Rev Rod Benson is Director of the Centre for Christian Ethics at Morling College, Sydney. Previously he pastored Baptist churches in NSW and Queensland.

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