We crave hope like bugs crave porch lights.
Barack Obama’s book title, The Audacity of Hope, and the favorable response by many Americans to this book — and his entire campaign for that matter — illustrate the human being’s magnetic attraction to anything resembling hope. While the hope many speak of is synonymous with a loosely defined “dream” (as in “American Dream”, rags to riches, etc.) for a better future, the true nature of hope is more concrete, more demanding, and more powerful.
We Christians are to blame for the confusion. The church does a wonderful job of telling our culture where it is going wrong. Not even so much how it is going wrong – as in, an explanation of the defect in terms that define it and propose correction – just specific instances of wrong, like a referee blowing the whistle when the ball goes out of bounds. Appraisal of this kind is one function of the Christian faith in a individual and in society at large. However, Christ did not come merely to point out the flaws of fallen humanity. That was only half his mission.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. (John 3:17)
Christ did much more than merely highlight the shortcomings of sinners. Christ offered what every longing heart craves. A rescue. Redemption. If we are to address our world as Christ did, then we must not neglect to offer hope.
The hope we offer is only as good as the hope we ourselves enjoy. Why is the Church not offering hope to people in our culture? One reason is because individuals in the church are living without hope themselves. Upward mobility / “Be all you can be” is such an ingrained value to our American society that this vague American Dream has replaced the robust notion of hope that our faith espouses. When we speak of God giving us hope or of having hope we seem to be thinking more of a Barack Obama-type “If God were president (or king, or “lord” or whatever), then he might make things better for me” dream. Or the “If I just have faith, things will work out in the end” idea.
May I suggest that we don’t have dreams, we practice hope. Hope is not something we have. Hope is something we do.
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Hebrews 6:10-12)
An old commentator of yesteryear puts it this way:
Hope is…made up of an earnest desire for an object, and a corresponding expectation of obtaining it. The hope of heaven is made up of an earnest wish to reach heaven, and a corresponding expectation of it…The full assurance of that hope exists where there is the highest desire of heaven, and such corresponding evidence of personal piety, as to leave no doubt that it will be ours. (Barnes NT Commentaries)
People are drawn to hope like bugs to a porch light. So while some are huddled in their homes peeking out their curtains at the scary shadows they see scurrying around in our dark world, let’s you and me flip the switch, and let the light shine.
Hope starts with us.
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