1 Corinthians 15:41-50
41There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45Thus it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.50 What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Paul wants me to accept the discontinuity between the physical body and the spiritual body. There is a connection as the metaphor of “seed” and “plant” suggests. But Paul uses the metaphor to point up the utter difference between the one and the other. I don’t simply “grow” into immortality; rather as Paul will say “we are changed.” Those who imagine the resurrection life as a continuation of this get no support from the bible, not from Jesus who criticised the Pharisees for this assumption and told them there were no marriages in heaven, nor from Paul with his sharp distinction between the man of dust and the life-giving spirit. Contemporary funerals, with their banal “celebrations of life” (one last bow from the deceased), and their posturing inability to accept either mortality or the mighty fact of salvation, are monuments to triviality. Paul’s realism is an antidote.
12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you slaves any longer, because the slave does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
Jesus is, as the hymn tells me, “my master and our friend.” He commands me as a friend: he is on my side, but I am not to assume any mere chumminess or partiality. The command he issues is not primarily verbal. It is his very life and death. Jesus is the command of love. The distinction between slaves and friends is the same as Paul’s between “the spirit of slavery” and the “spirit of adoption” in Romans chapter 8. In Jesus I discover God as dear father and Jesus as brother or friend. This intimacy, which has as its qualification the readiness to lay down my life for my friends as Jesus did, is the great glory of the Christian way. The love to which I’m commanded includes every distant brother and sister as well as those near at hand and abolishes every distinction which divides humanity. Except religion? No, even if Jesus speaks here about the community of disciples, the mission to include “all people” means that I must already treat them as brothers and sisters whatever their faith.