Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
This is the foundation of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Jesus, our faith is impotent and futile. But because Jesus is alive, having conquered death, we are invited into life-giving relationship with him…now…and in anticipation of the day we will be united with him in glory.
What’s more, Scripture is clear that those who trust in Jesus are united with Him in both his death and resurrection (Romans 6:5). Therefore, those who have physically died, in Christ, are presently just as alive as Christ. (In truth, they’re more alive than you and me!)
However, it seems foreign, even in the Christian community, for people to engage loved ones who have died in a manner similar to the way they engage Jesus, who is very much alive. Why is this atypical? (I’m not referring to the ethereal, ghost-like, guardian angel-type idea, but rather the concept that our loved one is alive in a distant land [at home with the Lord — 2 Corinthians 5:8], and our expressions toward and about them should reflect that reality.)
Jessie is growing up with the understanding that she has a brother who loves her very much—a brother who lived here on earth, died, but now resides in heaven; she lives with anticipation of their reunion. But what has become especially clear is how Jessie’s view of Judson has richly informed her understanding of Jesus, who loves her very much—he lived here on earth, died, but rose and resides in heaven; she lives with anticipation of seeing Jesus face-to-face too. As we continue to engage Jud as a living, active person in our family who resides in God’s Kingdom, it seems to bring a profound depth to Jessie’s understanding of Jesus as a living, active person who is ever-present but rules and resides in God’s Kingdom.
Interestingly, the ways we continue to involve Judson as a member of our family are, at best, uncommon, and at worst perceived as abnormal, peculiar, or possibly even unhealthy. When someone we care about is miles and miles away, do we not engage them with thoughts, conversations, letters, memories, and more out of our love and anticipation of being reunited? Why would it not be the same with our loved ones who have passed? Do we not truly believe they’re alive? Just as Jesus invites us into a relationship that is vibrant and alive (not abstract or detached), so also can our relationship with deceased loved ones be valued, concrete and complex.
We might all grow in faith if we allowed ourselves the freedom to continue to engage our loved ones, who are united with Jesus in both his death and resurrection, similarly to the way we engage Jesus Himself; it may, in fact, help us develop a more robust understanding of the hope of the Gospel.
I praise God every day for the gift of being united with Christ, not only in his death but in his resurrection, and that my Juddy is experiencing the full realization of that union now.
Indeed, Judson is alive…because Jesus is alive! He is risen indeed!