If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
(1 Corinthians 15:19)
When Christ returned from the grave, his body had gone through a transformation. Paul tells us that what was "sown perishable, was raised imperishable", of a substance which made it compatible with a different world, the world to come. The hope of the resurrection is that this life is not the only life that there is. That another life, another reality exists beyond the threshold of death. And that one day it will burst through the barrier of death and be the only world we know, a new heaven and a new earth.
This belief in a future life, sometimes dismissingly referred to as “pie in the sky by and by” has often come under criticism by those who attack Christianity. It has been cited as a cause for a lack of concern with the world in which we live in now, a reason to ignore the environment, or the poor, or unjust laws, or the care of our bodies. But this critique is unfounded, as Christ's teachings lead us to be loving stewards of creation, involved in feeding and clothing the poor, committed to just societies and acknowledging our bodies as temples for the Holy Spirit.
A hope for a future world doesn’t negate our actions and involvement in our present day to day life, an interest in civic duty, charitable giving, environmental responsibility or health care. Instead, it offers a reality check to the amount we are able to do. Despite the best efforts of a reformer, a Peace Corps volunteer, a social worker, at the end of the day there are failures for every success, tears for each burst of joy, regret for each celebration.
Like "all the king's soldiers and all the king's men" who look despairingly at Humpty Dumpty, shattered at the base of his wall, we can't put back together the pieces from the fall of mankind. And that is why Paul says, “if it is only for this life that we believe in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” For the Christian, this life, although extremely significant, awaits a future life, where God "shall wipe away all tears from our eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." (Revelation 21:4)
It is easy to put a God of love and power on trial in this world. Like Julian of Norwich, we agonize over the existence of sin and the sufferings that come from evil all around us. We wonder how a universe which is full of pain and distress could come from a truly loving and omnipotent God. Couldn't there have been a better way? we ask. "Sin is necessary," God replies to Julian in The Revelation of Love. But "all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."
The truth that we celebrate on Easter Sunday is that there is something more, something beyond the grave, that will not only balance the scales, not only restore what has been broken, lost and defiled, but will result in our becoming even more whole than we thought possible. In her visions, Julian is shown that God is indeed loving and powerful, and that he is also holding onto a mystery, one in which all the wrongs of the world shall be put to right in a way that will satisfy all of our questions. We cannot and will not know how it will happen now, but God does not want us to be in distress. He wants us to rest in the hope that the ending is happier than we can imagine.
Our hope is not only for ourselves, for we are only one of the many on this planet, but for every person who has ever lived, for each child that has ever suffered, each wife that has ever been betrayed, each man that has ever been despised. We even hope for those who have been our enemies and caused indescribable harm. We hope that this mystery of God shall make possible what to us seems utterly impossible. That in the life to come the loving power of the resurrection will put make all things well.