And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 1 Cor. 15:17-19
I have always been a bit puzzled by this sequence of verses. If Christ is not raised from the dead, then is there really something called “sin”? 1 Cor. 15:32b’s quote from Isaiah always rang a little truer: “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’”
In order to understand this (or, at least, to go along with me on my take), I believe we need to have a proper understanding of what sin is. This passage really makes no sense if we operate from a virtue/vice sort of emphasis on sin as deed. If the idea of God is questionable, then, as Dostoevsky said, “Everything is permissible.” The idea of sin is then a social construct with the purpose of keeping society safe for the free market (or aiding a monarchy/regime by threatening malcontents with other-worldly punishment, etc.). In the pursuit of truth, this idea must be done away with.
The real force of sin is that it describes a condition of the human being that manifests in deeds. The condition is one of a constant assertion of autonomy. Autonomy is the perfect word for this because it literally means “a law unto the self”. Love (if we can call it that) is directed inward rather than upward and outward–Simon and Garfunkel’s I Am a Rock. An autocrat is “one who rules by himself”. Think of Stalin, Hitler, Castro, Edward “The Long Shanks”, Pinochet or any other example from a wide and deep list of the usual (and unusual) suspects. So, the constant assertion of our autonomy is the condition of sin.
In Holy Week and Easter, we see autonomy’s exact reversal. Sometimes the story is so familiar, we have to look at it with new eyes. The Lord Jesus Christ, who has been given ALL authority, empties himself instead of gorging himself on his dominion. He gathers out of sacrificial love instead of coercion. This is a shocking upheaval in human history and nothing else rivals it.
Enter into the story with us with fresh eyes this Holy Week and Easter. Invite someone to go on the journey with you. Christ has been raised from the dead and this changes everything.