“I always knew Jesus promised the dead would rise, but I didn’t quite think it would be like this” says Hershel, a character in the Walking Dead finale last night. For those unfamiliar with the show, it is AMC’s hit that deals with a literal zombie apocalypse. It is not for the feint of heart either. Zombies kill in gruesome fashion, especially for primetime TV. And the zombies are dispatched with equal ferocity by the heroes of the story. The heart of the story though is about people trying to survive in a world which has fallen apart. And, at least for the better characters, the real struggle is trying to retain their humanity.
The character’s quote though does raise a good topic for us during Lent and one which we often gloss over and that is that as Christians we do believe in the resurrection of the dead (not as zombies but as “better than we are now” living breathing people). This means we literally believe people will be raised from the dead but with these new bodies we will not grow old, be subject to sickness and pain, and will live with God forever. The non-physical ghost type eternal life might have been popular with the Greeks, and remains so even with Hollywood today, but it is not how the Bible says it will be.
How do we know this? Jesus himself is our one and only example of someone who was resurrected. And he is someone who was touched by people, who ate with people (and cooked a meal for them), and walked with them on the seashore. How is this all possible? We don’t know, we just have faith that it is so.
Our culture today seems to be fascinated by stories of what will happen if society suddenly ends. Beyond The Walking Dead we have many examples of dystopian futures in pop culture. Just a few examples are: Falling Skies, V, Jericho, Blade Runner, The Day After, the Terminator series, Mad Max, Waterworld, The Road, and now The Hunger Games. We somehow collectively sense that our way of life is not eternal and image various scenarios (most of which have little to no mention of God at all). But for believers we confess a brighter future.
Christians need to acknowledge that it will get worse before it gets better – that too is Biblical – but it will get better in the end. Really beyond better! And it is the very One who created us who will save us. Faith, hope, and love remain the most important things, regardless of whether our society will last two decades or two millenia more. And in dark times, they will be more important than ever.
One thing to remember in all this, people have been expecting the world to end since Jesus’ time, and we are still going on.
The danger is keeping an apocalyptic mindset is that it can make people very selfish and self-centered. There are many people in our society today, for example, who collect food, money, clothing, and supplies – not for the poor, but for themselves after society falls. Being frugal and planning and saving up for the future is admirable. But never at the cost of disregarding our neighbors.
I enjoy The Walking Dead. I believe it is packed with metaphors and messages about our world today. But more than this, I wonder how much we can be “The Walking Alive.” How are we to be the living, the really living people? How can we claim back people who are on the “wide road” Jesus described and call them onto the narrow road? The right path, after all, leads to something abundantly more hopeful.
What do you think?
Until next time,