If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men (I Corinthians 15:19).
Sometimes, the words “if only” express regret, as in “If only I had not done that!” Sometimes they reflect hope, as in, “If only I get that promotion.” This time, the apostle used them to issue a warning reminder.
It’s a reminder we need.
Otherwise, we might spend too much time thinking about things here and now and too little about there and then.
We forget that our stay on earth is only a short blip on the screen of life. Life after this life goes on and on and on forever.
There are benefits to being a Christian in this life. It’s a relief to know we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. It’s reassuring to know we are being watched over.
But, in the end, we must expect to die.
As strange as it seems, there have been people who claimed to be followers of Jesus who did not believe that there is life after death. Some lived in Corinth at the time of Saint Paul. Some live in America today.
It’s not just the “Eat, drink, and be merry” crowd that dismisses the idea of an afterlife. Some very serious and respected people have come to the conclusion that upon dying, we simply become molecules in soil or water—just like dead leaves.
Then, what role would Jesus serve in life? They answer, “He is an example of how we might live. He teaches us compassion. He reflects love and kindness.”
Then, they add: “But he died. And he stayed dead. And so will we.”
How sad! How hopeless! How wrong!
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
How true. What a pity!
Good thing we can have hope for life after this one! Good thing it will be a good life—the best one ever!
The apostle points out: “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Corinthians 15:20).
The first grapes on a vine mean more are coming. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead means that his followers will rise.
Good to know!
It is good to know our end game. It allows us to make better use of our time here and to enjoy it more fully.
We are not on death row. We are waiting for orders to stand down so we can go home.
If only we will remember that.
We pray: “Jesus, lead us on till our rest is won; and although the way be cheerless, we will follow, calm and fearless. Guide us by your hand to our fatherland.” (CW 422) Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military