An Easter Message From ILT

“Christ is risen!”

“He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”

This Easter acclamation announces to the world that Christians no longer live on the world’s terms. The world’s terms all come down to this: the finality of death. The world’s power depends upon death’s finality. The entirety of the world’s coercive power stems from its ability to threaten death and then to impose death consequent upon that threat.

In the world, a constitutional law professor must admonish his class, “Never enact a piece of legislation that you’re not willing to kill to enforce.” That is the effect of legislation, to enable the imposition of coercive force up to and including deadly force for the effectiveness of the legislation.

Law and order also employ psychological and sociological coercion. In psychological coercion the law promises rewards enticing us to covet them. Sociological coercion has played a huge role in ordering communities. Through its threat of ostracism and societal disapproval either by the assigning of guilt or the imposition of shame, social coercion works through the fear of violating communal, non-legislative customs and rules to keep people in line.

The Easter acclamation announces the end to the world’s rule by political, psychological, and sociological coercion. It announces the end of the world’s rule by fear. It declares that those who believe in Jesus Christ take him at his word, “I am the resurrection and life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (Jn 11:25). Living without this fear is to live as the new creature in Christ, as a citizen of the New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Living without this fear is to be set free from the rule of sin, death, and the power of the devil—the Triad of Bondage—all of which bind us in our fears.

For those who live by faith “in Christ,” their behavior is spontaneous. It is no longer ensnared by consideration as to its punishment or reward. For those who live by faith “in Christ,” their neighbors are now ends in themselves rather than a means to achieve the end of righteousness for yourself—that is, blamelessness where neither shame nor guilt can be assigned. To be “in Christ” and to have “Christ as your life” (cf. Gal. 2:20), means acting spontaneously in benefit of the neighbor. Faith thus yields the response in freedom while fear responds out of bondage which must always consider how one’s self benefits before considering how the neighbor benefits. The Apostle Paul makes this the banner headline upon the work of Christ: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

On this coming Sunday, declare your freedom from the world’s rule by fear. Declare that you will live by the Word of Jesus Christ—“Because I live, you also will live” (Jn 14:19)—alone, not out of bondage to sin, death and the power of the devil. Declare that your neighbor will no longer be the means by which you alleviate your fears. Instead, the neighbor is now to be served as an end in himself.

“Christ is risen!”

“He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”

Easter, 2020

Rev. Timothy J. Swenson

Dean of Chapel

Institute of Lutheran Theology

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