Last week I had the privilege of being a chaperone for a trip my youth group in Kentucky took to X-Fuge on Mission at Ridgecrest in North Carolina. I’ll share more about camp later this week, but this is one of the most memorable experiences from the trip that took place while we were in downtown Asheville talking to people about Jesus.

“I’m a deist,” he said. Well, at least that’s something, I thought. At least he believes some kind of Creator or higher being exists, even if he doesn’t believe said Creator is truly involved in our lives. 

The young man went on to tell us how he had been raised in a strict Baptist household, but ain’t ’bout that life no more. He was open to share with us and hear what we had to say, and was impressed with how confident we were in our beliefs, but Christianity wasn’t for him.

“I have a problem with blood redemption,” he said. That’s an unusual objection, I thought. The cross is the basis of our faith. Christ’s sacrifice is all love, all good, all effective. The only way I could understand having a problem with him dying for us would be if he was just a human and not…

“Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?”

As I suspected, he didn’t. He believed Jesus was a historical figure that did good, but that he wasn’t God and he certainly wasn’t still alive. I mentioned the liar, lunatic, or Lord apologetic, but it didn’t seem to affect him. We expressed how we believed in Jesus’ divinity and resurrection, and how those beliefs (and experiential realities) changed everything in our lives. “Good for you but not for me,” was the summation of his polite response.

“The Bible says that if Jesus isn’t alive– if He wasn’t the Son of God and wasn’t raised from the dead– then out of all people we are to be the most pitied,” I told him, paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 15:17-19. “But we believe He is alive.”

The conversation drew to a close and we thanked him and his friend for their willingness to talk with us and for the good conversation. If nothing else, it proved that discussions about different beliefs and apologetics don’t have to be hostile. They can be pleasant and thoughtful.

But I couldn’t get that guy out of my head. I still can’t. He was in the back of my mind the rest of the day. Then, when we went back to the camp for worship that night, he came blaring into the forefront.

We were singing songs like “Christ is Risen;” songs about Jesus being alive. What washed over me was this double-sided wave of emotion: joy at the fact that Jesus is indeed alive and risen and everything that means, but sorrow at the fact that this man didn’t see it. That for him, Jesus was rotting away in the ground somewhere.

I don’t know what the church or family was like that he grew up in, but if they were truly followers of Christ, how could he go through all that time and not see evidence in their lives that Jesus is alive? I don’t know all the circumstances, but I do know the prayer that flows from that question: God, let us show those around us and those who come after us that You are alive and at work in our lives. Let Jesus never become a dead historical figure to us, but let him be our vibrant, risen Lord. “Forever let your church proclaim: Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death; come awake, come awake, come and rise up from the grave.”

Jesus being alive changes everything. Without it, this faith is foolishness, life is meaningless, and hope is nonexistent. With it, we have faith, life, and hope in someone beyond ourselves and in somewhere beyond our present life.

If Jesus is alive, we can truly live. If Jesus is alive, he is worth everything. If Jesus is alive, we don’t have to live in fear of death. If Jesus is alive, we can rest in the fact that these present afflictions are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us.

I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe He is alive. I’ve seen him at work in my life and in the lives of others. Maybe I’m insane for believing in something we can’t understand as possible, but I’ll go to my grave believing Jesus isn’t in his.

Come awake, my friends. Jesus is alive.