Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in which some Christian traditions engage in feet-washing rituals, as a commemoration of the events surrounding the Last Supper. There Jesus instructed his disciples both through the object lesson of humbly washing their feet (a task that they were too proud to volunteer for) as well as through direct instruction. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."

Those of us involved in public life, when explicitly appealing to our Christian motivation for these actions, are often quick to cite the Christian obligation of love for neighbour as an animating force. In fact, sometimes this emphasis can cause a perceived tension between believers who make social engagement a priority and others who fear this emphasis leads to a neglect of the vertical relationship between believers and God. The tension is usually expressed in the context of practical rather than theological disagreements, as all recognize that the command to love God above all and our neighbours as ourselves is not two but one command.

Still the debate is often framed as a matter of balance. We need to both be heavenly-minded and think about the earthly good that is required of us. At a practical level, that is true. One needs to set aside time for personal devotional practices, corporate worship, and seasonal reflections or they don't happen. Thinking about these things as a matter of balance, however practically helpful, brings problems of its own. The concept of balance involves the relationship between two separate things. But biblically speaking, the concepts of "heavenly mindedness" and "earthly usefulness" cannot be separated, just as Jesus' command cannot be separated.

C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, makes this point clearly.

If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim and heaven and you will get earth 'thrown in'; aim at earth and you will get neither.

The apostle Paul famously argued to the Corinthians that if Christ had not risen, then his preaching would be vain. So it is for our public theology. Maundy Thursday is not simply a calendar day to be remembered (or not) according to the practices of our religious traditions and the lead-up to a long-weekend with some extra time off. The events surrounding the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are fundamental to our task of Christian public theology. The promise of re-creation, made certain by the triumph of the Messiah over death and the grave, provide the basis for Christian hope and the very reason for reaching back to the insights not just of 2,000 years of Christian social thought, but all the way back to creation itself in order to find answers to life's basic questions. Creation, fall, redemption, restoration—this is the story of the world and of our lives. To try and make sense of how to live together in this time while being indifferent to the plot of history is a misguided adventure.

Christ's coming and resurrection is a reminder of the heart of what we are about as humans, what we believe about life in this world and its purpose, and what gives us confidence regarding the message we have to share. It is why the message "He is Risen" provides hope for eternity, but is also at the heart of addressing the everyday issues of life.

Happy Easter.