Physically, she was eroded by life. Sundried, leathery skin. Tangled, coarse hair crudely chopped off for the sole purpose of keeping it out of her eyes. Missing teeth. It was a stark contrast to the three young girls she was talking to. They were new. Unblemished. Flourishing. She was there for a free meal. They were there to serve it and clean it up.
She gave them some advice. “Stay away from men.” If that had been all she said, it would have passed over all of us as an exaggerated lesson from a rough life. But, she continued and it went something like this:
“If you find a man, date him for a long time. MAKE SURE, that he treats you like a princess. If you fight, walk away and calm down. If he ever hurts you, get out of there and don’t go back. You treat him like a prince too. Don’t let your life end up like mine. I’ve been married three times. The last time, he beat me so badly that they put me in a coma so that I could heal. He really messed me up.”
There was obvious weight to her words. Her appearance alone was her witness. You could judge her book by its cover. But, she did not say it with contempt or even understandable self-pity. It was a moment. Her simplistic and basic wording painted a dense, compelling portrait of pain and regret. She was lucky to be alive, but unlucky in almost every other way. We thanked her for sharing her story. She said, “Thank Him.” That would have usually passed over me as a Christian cliché, but she authentically meant it. She left. We stood still. Her words had put us on pause for a moment.
Resurrection is an audacious claim. Yet, it is at the center of the Christian hope. If it were more on the periphery, more in a gray area, we could tuck it away and avoid talking about someone raising from the dead and the future hope of that happening again. But, it is not and our faith is useless without it. Social justice without resurrection is temporary good, but ultimately futile. (Resurrection without working toward the betterment of the world is selfish escapism.) So, without it, “Let’s eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”1
Simply leaping to a conviction of resurrection in blind faith makes it all silly and flimsy. There is history to investigate and records to be examined. (This not a post about apologetics, so excuse the simplistic treatment). Yet, while we cannot and should not simply take a leap of faith, “one cannot simply argue right up to the central truth of Christianity by pure human left-brain reason alone…. we cannot fall into the camps of private space religion or just cause and effect history.”2 At some point, you decide to say “I am not sure what happened, but I know people do not raise from the dead.” Or, your worldview shifts.
“The same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the worldview shift that will enable us to transform the world.”3 If you believe in something as audacious as resurrection, you can believe something as audacious as the real and permanent ending of tragedy and violence.
Resurrection without social justice is an intangible hope that things will be better someday. Social justice without resurrection is a cycle without end.
Together (as if resurrection and justice could be separated) the leather skinned woman gets a meal, another day, a smile, a chance to do good and a promise. A promise that she can definitively and fully be made new again. A promise that goodness has a destination and that she has a destination of goodness. A promise that her life hasn’t “ended up,” but her past will.
1 1 Corinthians 15:17-19,32
2 Surprised by Hope N.T. Wright
3 Surprised by Hope N.T. Wright, pg. 70