Apparently, one of the attractions of the zombie is absolute freedom. You can do anything you want. Nobody will argue.
For many, being one of the undead might be too high a price to pay for such absolute freedom. For the rising number of zombie fans, however, so what if your personal appearance takes a little bit of a dive, and you have to walk relentlessly forward with stiff limbs? Freedom is freedom.
We all live with bodies. Some more attractive than others. Some more powerful than others. But we know what it is to live a bodily existence. And we know the restrictions that bodily existence brings.
It is not just the zombie fans who feel the constraints of the usual bodily existence and who long for greater freedom. There is a long line of Eastern and Western thought that looks forward to some kind of release from bodily existence into the higher, or purer, or better realm of ‘spirit’. For sure, this may occur after we die, as this body is shed like a shell from a peanut, but such philosophies of life also have their techniques which promise release of the higher, purer, better ‘spirit’ from the restraining shackles of the body.
Now, the kind of activities the zombie gets up to may seem a far cry from those encouraged by your Platos of yesterday, or your yoga teachers of today. How freedom from bodily constraints might be exercised may be very different. But there is a similarity here: the body is what constrains. The body, a prison-house for the soul. The body, fit only for the dung-heap. The body, constraining our freedom to really live.
Here, again, the stark difference from the Christian gospel stands out so clearly. Jesus went through death and came out the other side—not as a zombie, but as a resurrected man. The first to rise from the dead and to enter resurrection life once and for all time. This is not undeath, but real life. This is not non-bodily existence, but new-bodily existence.
The constraints of the body are really the constraints of the mortal body. Because of our sin, we have to live under the shadow of death, sin’s penalty. The bodies with which we live are subject to decay, corruption, decline: they are bodies of death (Rom 7:24), to use Paul’s phrase. To use a couple more of his lines, they are ‘mortal bodies’ (Rom 6:12), bodies of our humiliation (Phil 3:21). Because of this corruption, we cannot live life as God intended for us.
Perhaps it will come as a surprise to our zombie fan, but the reason we are constrained now is not because we aren’t yet zombies, but because we are! We are staggering around as the undead right now, with bodies that should have been glorious, but which are now rotting and grave-ridden because of our sin.
Absolute freedom will not come from further zombie-dom; neither will it come through release from our bodies to some realm of spirit. It will come through the release of our bodies into their intended glorious state: through resurrection, the “glorious freedom of the children of God”, the “redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:21, 23). Jesus promises absolute freedom: bodily life at last in all its fullness, free from the constraints of our sinful mortality.
What is more, this prospect of future resurrection also works its magic on life in the here and now. Jesus meets us in our present zombie-like existence, and gives us his Spirit. He is not some spirit who takes us out of the body, but he is the spirit who begins to take us towards the resurrection day (Rom 8:11). The constraints of sinful bodily existence begin to be overturned as our lives are transformed into resurrection life ahead of time, before the day of resurrection when the final transformation will take place in the twinkling of an eye. Staggering stuff—in the non-zombie sense of the word. The dawn of the Christian dead will be a great day. A great day indeed.
The first excitement of the news of Jesus’ resurrection once turned the world upside down. Here is a message that mortal human beings need to here afresh: you can truly live again. And to experience the absolute freedom of true humanity, you don’t have to become a zombie.