Christians: The Anti-Zombies - Ephesians 2:1-10
A few years ago, vampires were all the rage. Everywhere you turned there was a new vampire movie and with their glittering and sparkling, all fear had subside—teenage girls, rather than cowering in fear at the thoughts of vampires were almost ready to stick their necks out for a bite. Thankfully that fad has faded into the twilight.
However, I don’t know. We may have gone from bad to worse. We’ve moved from the once-bitten, undead to the brain-hungry, viral infected living dead—moving from vampires to a fascination with zombies. Whether it is the growing popularity of AMC’s The Walking Dead, the fact that you can type a Google search with “zombie apocalypse” and come up with over 8 million matches, or the fact that a growing number of fundraising races are becoming zombie oriented…such as this coming weekend in the RTP with the Zombie Escape or next weekend in Winston Salem with the Zombie Apocalypse 5K run/walk/shuffle. Think you don’t know anyone involved in the living dead…you might be surprised.
Just what is a zombie?[i] With traces that go all the way back to 2000 years before Christ with The Epic of Gilgamesh out of Mesopotamia, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstien from 1818, and its modernized depiction through film with George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead, a zombie is an reanimated human corpse, usually considered, “mindless” with a hunger for human flesh, particularly human brains. Kind of gross, right? Why would anyone in their right mind want to be a member of the living dead? Oh, wait, zombies are mindless—they have no “right mind.”
Why do we have all the popularity of, first vampires, and now zombies in our society today? There could be any number of reasons, from the fact that some people just like to be scared, to an attempt, especially in the case of vampires, to take the scary and make them something more palatable, or maybe, and I think a great deal of it lies here, it is the quest of all humanity to answer the question of just what is on the other side of the grave, or what can free me from the grave.
My brothers and sisters, if it is simply an unspoken, conscious, or even subconscious effort to escape the grave, we, as followers of Christ, have the answer. As those who seek to follow Christ, we are not the living dead (though sometimes our long drawn faces which suggest that following Christ is pure torture would offer the opposite) nor the undead, but we are the “formally dead, now alive.”
“You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world…But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us…made us alive together with Christ…”
We were dead.
“Wait a minute preacher! I haven’t been dead…not even close. My heart has been beating since before I was born. I may have even been in the hospital a day or two, but never on the slab in the morgue.”
Okay…if we don’t want to admit that we were dead (in the sense that we understand dead) then we will have to admit that prior to surrendering our lives to Christ, to acknowledging His active presence in our lives, we were zombies—we were living dead---walking around day in and day out in our sin, mindlessly following the course of the world, living under the influence of Satan, trying to be like everyone else readily gratifying the desires of the flesh. We were zombies…maybe not hungry to munch on human flesh, but sometimes acting out and engaging in behavior to satisfy a sexual hunger for flesh outside the God-ordained relationship of husband and wife; sometimes acting out a hunger for power and control, trying to rule over the flesh of others; sometimes that fleshly hunger was greed, desiring to have more and more; or pleasure, injecting, inhaling, or ingesting in our flesh those substances that would make us feel good. Paul reminds us that “All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.” That’s where we were, walking, talking, “living dead,” zombies.
But no more, Paul says, we are no longer to be counted among the dead, but among those that God has raised from the dead. We have been brought out of a sentence of death just as Christ was brought out of the tomb, by the grace and love of God. We no longer need be concerned about the grave, because we have been freed from the grave. We no longer offer our lives to Satan as lord of our lives who can only offer death, but have declared our allegiance to Christ and thus been guaranteed a life that will have no end. We don’t have to worry about what eternal life is on the other side of the grave, my brothers and sisters, because eternal life does not being when this mortal flesh ceases to function, eternal life begins the moment we move from death to life—from living for our flesh to living for Christ…when we surrender and submit our lives to the Lordship of Christ.
It is in giving our lives to Christ, that we become Anti-Zombies. How?
Zombies are considered mindless. Paul reminds the followers of Christ that we are not mindless in our actions, but are called to have the mind of Christ, as he tells the Philippians, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,”[ii] or reminds the church in Corinth, “we have the mind of Christ.”[iii] As disciples, we are not called to walk around as unthinking zombies, but should constantly be challenging ourselves to understand better, seeing and responding to the world and those around us in the manner that Christ would have responded.
Zombies don’t have vital signs. Disciples have vital signs…definite markers that tell whether we are living for Christ or among the dead of the world. Christ says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have lone for one another.”[iv] Paul reminds us that those filled with the Spirit of Christ, will bear fruit: “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh…now the work of [Zombies] are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and thinks like these…By contrast, the [vital signs] of the [Living are] love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”[v]
Zombies are in a constantly decaying state. Disciples, on the other hand, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”[vi]
Zombies are unemotional with no feelings of mercy toward their victims. Christ tells all who would follow Him, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”[vii]
Zombies wander aimlessly, led only by their hunger, their only purpose to satisfy that hunger. Those who have received the gift of life through Christ have a purpose, a reason for existence. “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.” Not because of good works, but by God’s design in response to being truly alive, those who follow Christ, by design, are active with the purpose of making God’s Kingdom and Love visible to the world through good works.
Finally, Zombies, though the “living dead” or “undead,” like their “undead partners” vampires, can be killed. A zombie is killed by destroying their brain (not that being mindless it was of any use to them anyway). Those who have received new life through Christ have this promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in my will never die.”[viii]
With this known, my brothers and sisters, will each of us count ourselves among “The Living Dead” or the “Formally Dead, Now Living—Anti-Zombies”?
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.