By Travis Kahl
What will the resurrection be like? After Christ comes again and redeems the world, when every tear is wiped away and every sorrow blotted out, what will our existence actually look like? We get surprisingly few details from Jesus himself. The specifics of the resurrection are glossed over in favor of the fact that there will be a resurrection at all, a concept new to the audience of the day. But we get a few hints from Jesus’ own resurrection.
After being raised from the dead, Christ interacts with space and time differently. His body has been perfected in every imaginable way. Most notably, however, his wounds persist. The holes in his hands and side are still there. Christ’s body bears the marks of its mortal trauma, and likely will for the rest of time. And this is my problem with the resurrection.
As Christians, we believe that it is a good thing to have a body. After all, God created all that is, and God calls it all good. But it seems as though having a body is a real pain most of the time. Illness, fatigue, injury, dysphoria with regards to every aspect of our physical selves—these are realities for us as physical beings. God promises to put an end to this kind of suffering. Personally, I can’t imagine that my resurrected body wouldn’t see me cleansed of my chronic illness.
However, others hold a different view than mine. There are many who identify strongly with what we consider disabilities. For example, some people were born with one arm, and don’t wish to have another. What will God say to them in the resurrection? “Sorry, but I won’t allow you to exist in the way you want?” “You have to meet my image of perfection?” That’s almost more unthinkable. It would be a denial of their very humanity.
So we’re stuck. Either we’re no longer affected in any way by this world’s disconnect from God’s will, and the experiences of many are invalidated, or we are, and God doesn’t heal all who are sick and injured. What do we do?
The key to this problem, I think, lies in our understanding of perfection. We have a very Greek, idealistic view of bodily perfection where there’s one perfect, ideal body, and all others must strive to meet its standard. What if we adopt a different view? For a minute, let’s think in terms of wholeness, not perfection. Instead of asking—“How do I fit the standard of perfection?”—the question of wholeness is, “What is the most me version of me that could exist?” Christ’s wounds were fundamental to his human experience, and they’re necessary to describe him. Without them he wouldn’t be him, and though they don’t cause him to suffer any longer, he’ll bear them forever.
What the most whole existence looks like is different for each person. It might include fewer arms or legs for some than for others. There’s certainly no shortage of scars or trauma for anyone. But Christ’s promise is that none of this will cause us to suffer any longer. Though Christ’s wounds persist, they don’t bleed anymore.
Will our bodies be, as we think of it, perfect? No. But then again, our desire to be perfect is one of the first things we have to leave behind as Christians. We will be whole, the way that God intended for us to be. Not entirely unaffected by our experiences but not entirely subject to them either. The rest, we take on faith.