There Is Hope
November 4, 2020
There is hope.
Three simple words—and yet distinctly Christian and essentially relevant today. Most of what we read about and think about nowadays is filled with dystopian visions of the future, not hope-filled dreams. Our futurology fears the impact of technology, the downgrade of culture, the nefarious nightmares of false religion, fake religion, or no religion (depending on your ideological preconceptions).
But what we do not hear much about, think much about, reflect much upon is that distinctly Christian and essentially relevant vision of hope. There is hope: three simple words and yet, boy, are they needed today. To be a Christian is to believe that not only did the world start somewhere good (creation), not only did the world go tragically wrong (fall), but that all of reality is cascading towards a cosmic future that will be literally, indescribably brilliant and beautiful (redemption). The trouble is that because we have a weak doctrine of creation, and an even weaker doctrine of the fall, we are not able to hold on to hope of the future without it feeling—well, cheesy, kitschy, hokey, unrealistic, and even cruel in its lack of empathy for the pain that people feel and experience in their daily lives.
Our language betrays our ambivalence towards hope. We say “hopefully,” meaning it probably won’t happen, but it would be good if it did. And as much as preachers the world over say that the biblical doctrine of hope means a sure and certain future, we can’t help but wonder whether really it means something more like “hopefully.” Hopefully, things will turn out better. Hopefully, COVID will end. Hopefully, race tensions will get better. Hopefully, the church will continue to expand across the globe. Hopefully, I won’t get sick and die, but if I do, hopefully, my friends and family will be able to cope without me. Hopefully.
What if “hope” replaced “hopefully”? Of course, there is a danger here too. If we run this matter to the other extreme, then we can end up with unbiblical notions of hope that have been used down through history to drive over the dead bodies of other cultures and peoples and individuals for the sake of the destiny of the people who believe in their own godless hope. But there are dangers everywhere, and dangers abound in the status quo too—some days, it seems clear to me that the world is quite literally dying for lack of hope. You see it in the eyes of the depressive. You see it in the world-weary pretend smile of the quote-unquote “successful” business leader. You see it in the students trying to figure out university and eventually their careers in this weird and troubling season in which we live.
“In this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:24). I have hope. Not in me, not in you, not in our organizations and human abilities. Not in the utopian dream of things always getting better or the chimera of the spiritual quackery of the fake message that if you have enough faith, you will not suffer. No, I have hope in Christ, and therefore I have hope that the future is bright. In fact, the very suffering that we experience now is—mysteriously, wondrously, yet certainly and persuasively because of the crucified and risen Christ—interwoven with God’s sovereign purpose for good.
Hope with me.
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