This is a repost of one of my poems about the resurrection of Jesus, but the story following is new.
Had You not lived the perfect life
To die for our sins through Your strife
Then risen from the dead,
Oh where would mankind be instead?
Every deed and everything would be
Nothing more than vanity.
No sun nor moon in its full scope
Would we have to hold to with hope.
The grave would laugh in victory
And vain would be man’s history.
The body would only decay
As a maggot’s banquet, eaten away.
Pain on earth would be just the start
Of what through hell’s gates waits for the heart.
Had You not risen, all is vain,
But You did rise and forever reign
And through Your love we too can be
Risen with You in eternity!
. . . if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.1 Corinthians 15:14
I went shopping this week for my family’s Easter outfits. Most moms are probably done with this by now, but during holy week, here I am still trying to get everything together. As I shopped in different stores for different items for all ages, I found it hard to find some basic items like Easter dresses. As a child, I remember that was all you could find in the store this close to Easter. Now, there is no Easter display whatsoever here (except like Easter eggs and candy) or there are only a pair of two small racks of spring-like dresses, and half of them are not even bright for Easter. I asked one fellow shopper if she remembers having more selection let alone availability for Easter clothes. She said yes and added, “It’s kind of sad actually.” Has the demand for preparing ourselves for Easter Sunday gone so low? I mean this is capitalist America, and the major stores are not trying to market on this? And I live in the Bible belt y’all! I’m not saying we should capitalize Easter, but if Easter was still popular, you think you’d see the stores reflecting that. Either the stores are concertedly downplaying Easter, or people just don’t go to church like they used to, and the waning Christian cultures is reflected in what people buy and what stores market. I think the latter is the more likely case. Both Christian book stores in Huntsville, Alabama, are now gone. I grew up in a Christian culture where not everyone was Christian, but the culture still largely reflected Christian values and provided an amicable environment for true Christianity to thrive. Now, Christianity is becoming and has largely become counter-cultural, and any genuine Christian living for King Jesus is fighting an upstream battle.
I invited a man to church in the checkout line. We’ll call him Henry in this story. We had begun talking about how busy the day was, and then I learned he and his wife were new to the area. He lost his job after Covid-19 came to the United States, but he found a new job that brought him to my city, and he moved here just the day before I met him! So I invited him to church as an opportunity to meet new people in his new city, and he quickly told me he was not a Christian. “You don’t have to be a Christian to come,” I said.
“I know,” said Henry, “Everyone has their different religions. The first and most important thing is that we are all human. Religion is like an artifact of humanity.”
“Yes,” I said, “Christians believe that being human is very important. We believe we are all made in the image of God.”
He was very courteous, but he quickly communicated to me that he was done with that conversation, and we wished each other a good day and I wished him the best in his new home here.
But the reason I’m sharing this with you is because one thing he said struck me. He said religion is an artifact. Now considering the definitions of artifact, I believe he was working with a definition like this one from Merriam-Webster: “something or someone arising from or associated with an earlier time especially when regarded as no longer appropriate, relevant, or important.” An artifact is something someone leaves behind from a previous life and time. I worked at a museum where my whole job was centered around artifacts and what they told visitors about the past. In college, I spent large amounts of time on projects where I typed different sorts of southeastern projectile points (which people call arrow heads) and other stone tools from various time periods. And this kind gentleman considered religion an artifact, like something to help us learn about the past, but too old and perhaps too fragile to use for anything but decoration on a shelf or stored in a museum basement. We’re past religion now. It’s an artifact. My great-grandmother’s washboard hangs in my laundry room now. I am blessed to have a washer and dryer. I don’t use my great-grandmother’s washboard to wash my laundry. I use my washer and dryer. That washboard is an artifact. And according to Henry, religion is the same to him. I’m not offended in any way. I’m sad for him. I wish him the best. I hope he finds Jesus somewhere along the way, not religion per say.
I think this is a great topic during holy week, because it’s all about the resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus died and stayed dead, Christianity would have died with Him, and it would be an artifact. But because Jesus rose from the dead, He is alive as ever! He is not an artifact or a relic. He is very much alive today and just as active as ever.
If Henry understood this, he would not call my faith a relic. If he understood what true religion is, he would not say it is a relic. James the brother of Jesus says in his letter, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27). Taking care of the less fortunate is a very active thing. It is not as passé as an artifact, or at least I hope it is not. At least most people would not say caring for the less fortunate is a bygone way of life. Keeping yourself unstained from the world is a pretty active thing too. I have to constantly keep the lies of Satan from taking root in my mind. I have to guard myself against media and entertainment and advertising that constantly tries to lure away my mind into falsehood or futile things. I have had to fight for my faith throughout my whole education since middle school as my peers tried to manipulate me and my teachers tried to indoctrinate me. But I still had friends, and I still made A’s and B’s and got my degrees. I got turned away from at least one anthropology department because of my faith. They won’t admit that, but when the head of the department told me there is no reason academically why I shouldn’t be admitted, I can’t help but believe they turned me down because they saw a reference to my faith in my writing sample. They had all kinds of anti-Christian Darwinian stickers on their department office doors, for example. In school I learned about cultural relativism but I did not appropriate it. It is a self-defeating definition. There is no absolute truth except the truth that there is no absolute truth. Hmmm, how convenient. So I have had to very actively remain unstained from the world here.
But if cultural relativism is false and there is absolute truth, what is it? Pilate asked Jesus the same question, but Jesus had already told him, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37). If Pilate was of the truth he would have already been listening to Jesus somewhere in the last three years and he would have already known the answer to his own question. Pure religion is offensive (as in sports): be mercy. Pure religion is also defensive: stay holy. Holy just means set apart. That’s what it means to remain unstained from the world.
God is not dead. His religion is not an artifact, no, for “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12) and “The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:7-8). Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17).
My husband follows a Christian apologist named Mike Winger. He has pointed out that one of the strongest arguments for Jesus’ resurrection is the fact that Christians changed their day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, the day of His resurrection. They were Jews. Why would they worship on Sunday instead of Saturday? I had never thought of this before, but that seems like a good point. A book I read many years ago called “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel is a good read too. He was a journalist who was an atheist, but by the end of his research, the evidence led him to become a believer!
If Jesus never rose, then it is no different than any other religion. Christianity’s sheer survival to this point let alone its inception would be the miracle. But if Jesus really did rise from the dead, then there is a serious reality each one of us must come to terms with, and it’s not an artifact. Psalm 2:12 says, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him,” and Hebrews 30:31 says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Don’t let those around you perish in ignorance. Don’t let them fall into the hands of the living God unwittingly. Invite at least one person to church this week, and go to church yourself! People are more likely to attend church for Easter. The worst they can say is no, in however kind or unkind a way they choose. Psalm 118:6 says, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
If you are not a believer, please consider these things, and I’d encourage you to find a local church where there is a pastor you can talk to. You are also welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can walk you through the fundamentals of the faith, but I’m not a pastor.
I understand that with Covid-19, gathering in large groups is an issue, and not everyone has access to a vaccine yet. I’m one of those people. But many churches are taking great precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy. For example, my church is having an outdoor service, and if the weather is rainy, we are breaking it up into several smaller indoor services that will use social distancing and masks. We provide hand sanitizer too.
God bless you this Easter. He is risen!
“Artifact.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/artifact. Accessed 30 Mar. 2021
The Bible. English Standard Version, Crossway, 2001.