During Easter Sunday services, I heard one of my favorite passages, 1 Corinthians 15:13-20 (ESV):
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 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.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
I just love Paul’s forthrightness in those verses. He puts it all on the line: Christianity stands or falls on the Resurrection. If Christ was not raised, Christians are pathetic. They’re deluded. They’re even wicked — because they’re misrepresenting God. Ah, but if Christ has been raised, it’s a totally different story.
In much the same way, C.S. Lewis spoke of the inescapable implications of Jesus’ repeated claims to be God the Son:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Just so. Christians can be tempted to downplay Jesus’ divinity in favor of identities more palatable to the world — ethics instructor, lifestyle guru, all-around nice guy. But those who would downplay His divinity might just as well deny it. He is true man and true God. There’s no separating the two: You don’t focus on the former while treating the latter as an optional accessory. The truth about Christ is the heart of our faith.
So be bold. Don’t try to sneak up on anyone with that truth. Don’t try to parcel it out in bits and pieces, figuring you’ll get to the more controversial parts “later on.” Put it all out there. Those who will accept Him will accept Him; those who will reject Him will reject Him. Anything less than the whole Good News isn’t good news at all.