[Ed. note: This article is part of our series of weekly reflections, called Deep Down Things, published on Wednesdays.]
by Kendra Langdon Juskus
For several weeks leading up to Easter, my household received, through the mail, a series of advertisements for a local church. Every now and then a flier with a pithy saying stamped across its front would arrive at our door, including one that proclaimed, “People matter. Things don’t.”
I know what that phrase is intended to mean, and I agree. I agree that the stuff we collect during our lives is, at its best, useful or sentimental, and, at its worst, purposeless and wasteful. Much of what we accumulate is gathered from creation’s non-renewable resources, made by poorly paid workers, and discarded within a few years (sometimes even minutes!) to exist for many more years in huge piles of equally worthless rubbish. This church is affirming that this is the stuff Jesus warned about, the stuff that moth and rust destroy, and that thieves break in and steal. In God’s eyes, it doesn’t matter, especially in light of people’s suffering.
But there are “things” that do matter, and from which human lives are inextricable. Green plants matter, for without them we could not breathe. Soil matters, for without it we could not eat. Water matters, for without it we could not live.
People matter and things matter, but the only reason that any of it matters is because of Christ. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:3-4). Our worth, and the worth of this creation, is not our own; it is only from the Creator God.
The resurrection makes clear the fact that matter matters. We tend to celebrate Easter and then rush forward, forgetting the implications of resurrection—and not just of forgiveness—for the rest of our lives, forgetting what Jesus’ community was experiencing in these weeks before Pentecost: Jesus among them, in the flesh. His was a redeemed and mysterious presence, to be sure, but he was still a physical being who cooked fish (things!) over a fire, ate hearty meals, and had wounds into which loved ones could place their fingers and feel. This is important to us because, like it or not, we are embodied creatures, living on solid ground and eating food that grows from an earthy mix of decomposed plant and animal matter (remember, like it or not).
Tim Keller writes, in The Reason for God, that God is “… a God who becomes human and offers his own lifeblood in order to honor moral justice and merciful love so that someday he can destroy all evil without destroying us.”
By resurrecting bodily from the dead, and destroying all that is evil and death (like that stuff that really doesn’t matter and that only tethers us to the ephemeral), Jesus affirmed the goodness of the physical things God delighted to create with his own hand. It’s a tremendous affirmation of our existence—as undeserving as that existence is—this love that lets us live, body and soul, now and forever. It should sink our knees of bone down to the dusty earth in humility and worship.
But by that affirmation of the human body, that affirmation that God’s sixth-day creation is indeed “very good,” Christ’s rising from death also affirms that all we rely on—the things webbed together and supporting the peculiar equilibrium of our existence—are also, in God’s words, good. It is good, first of all, because it was made by, through, and for him, but it is also good because it nourishes the people he loves.
So let us not leave the reality of Easter, the undeserved affirmation of Easter, behind us in a rush. Instead, let us live deliberately and faithfully in awe of the fact that people matter at all, and that things matter, too.
Kendra Langdon Juskus is managing editor of Flourish.