The real basis for hope
Hope is that thing that looks harsh reality in the eye, recognises it for what it is and still believes that everything is working toward a satisfying and glorious conclusion because God has said so with an eternal "yes!" It isn’t a silly optimism that can only make sense on a lovely spring morning when everything is going our way—that’s not hope! Hope—at least the biblical kind—is made of stronger stuff than that. It doesn’t close its eyes to tough truth, hard to handle arguments, distressing mysteries and the unceasing pain of a wrong and wronged world.
And what is there that’s strong enough to look these awful realities in the eye, give them their due and then dismiss them with confidence? Cosmic troubles can only be dealt with by cosmic assurance! Only galactic-sized answers can satisfy galactic-sized questions and only the "God of all comfort" can comfort universal suffering. We Christians hope and cry one to another in the words of one of our ancient fellow-believers, "Hope thou in God!"
With money in the bank, good health and an extensive support system of friends and family we’re conned into thinking that we can truly hope. When we’ve elected the "right" President or Prime Minister and the various government houses are well-stocked with the kind of politicians we approve, we have a sense of security—hope is well grounded. But when our dwindling money can only buy us medicine and not health, when our friends have troubles of their own and can’t be there for us all the time and when our pain is only augmented by the pain our families are bearing we move from dismay toward despair. When our political leaders prove to have clay feet and prove to have promised too much--more than they can deliver, we stupidly look for others or we descend into cynicism.
I’ve no wish to deny that these realities and more are part of daily living as humans and that they matter! I want to say that the hope of the world and the hope of each one of us as part of that human family is grounded nowhere else but in the work of God as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. It isn’t the denial of harsh realities that we proclaim it’s the affirmation of undeniable truth as it is seen in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Shame on all that minister the word in God’s name who feed us nothing but "nice" little sermons and "delightful" little points and "interesting" little biblical portraits and "informative" glances at this or that! These are not the truths that give us a sense of our destiny and mission to the world. These are not what fill us with purpose and the power to defy the chaos of the world and the entrenched evils that would strip us of dignity and meaning. It’s the cross and what it means that disarms the authorities and powers and makes a spectacle of them; and nothing less than feeding the church on all these massive truths is the minister’s business.
We need more than correct "answers" to biblical questions and more than tanker-loads of moral opinions while starving for the meaning and implications of the Incarnation, life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ to God’s right hand. We need more than a "gospel" that is almost an apologetic invitation instead of a bold declaration of the fact of Christ’s Lordship!
We don’t need leaders whose aim is greater numbers in their churches, whose central aim is to please the religious consumers they have helped to create. We don’t need ministers who are especially concerned with making a name for themselves as "fearless"; men that spend their lives correcting people at important points while depriving the church of the indispensable "gospel" that enables it to face a fierce world like ours with radiant hope in their hearts. The hope and radiance the world needs to see and hear is that which is generated by God’s redeeming work in Jesus Christ. And if we don’t know or really care how to develop that and make it the steady diet of our people then we ought to get an honourable job like digging ditches or driving a taxi.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.