Scripture References – 1 Peter 1:3-9
Many of us would like to feel that, in some way, sense can be made of life. As we move through the maze of givens and unexpected we call life, we wish we could find an assurance of some sort that what we’ve known and been about has meaning; further, we hope that our dear ones who come after us can chisel through the barriers to similar meaningfulness in their lives. These desires are related to what we might call “Christian hope.” We want to join with those who affirm, “In Christ, Christians have hope.” Do we grasp the full meaning of such Christian hope?
Some of us see Christian hope as related only to the end of time and the life beyond. Because of God’s power and love, there is a “pretty good chance,” so we think, that “things” will all work out in the end. This perspective isn’t entirely off base, but there are problems with this approach. Christian hope is more than expecting everything finally to come out in the wash. Christian hope has something to add to every day we live. It is both a present reality and an attitude about the future. To treat Christian hope as only a probably, in the future tense, is to make it merely hopefulness or wishing. Hopefulness is “optimism or courage in the face of bad news” or else hoping but not knowing whether or not something will come to pass.
Christian hope is an attitude of assurance that God prepares a way and place for God’s people when life as we now know it has passed. Also, Christian hope is an attitude of assurance that God is present in the lives of God’s people now to bring meaning, wholeness, and peace through divine love even when the world is in despair. And, Christian hope for the world is that God, and God only, can and will overcome the inhumanity of mankind and all that results from man’ inhumanity.
This kind of assurance indicates that Christian hope is inseparably intertwined with faith in God. The truths of Christian hope are as certain as the God in whom they are based. Christian hope is not a hope in circumstances, but in God Himself. It isn’t a “blind yearning which reaches out of its lack,” but a vision of the present and future founded in what God has done and is doing. Though we all have our moments of doubt and uncertainty, perhaps unbelief at times, those of us who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior have the right and the resources to make Christian hope the overriding attitude in our lives. In reference to Christian hope, it has been stated that “Hope is to despair what faith is to doubt and love is to hate.”
Our lesson from 1 Peter addresses the subject of Christian hope. It is an excerpt from a first-century sermon to those who are new persons in the faith, and it is still helpful to us today whether we happen to be new or experienced in matters of faith.
Our lesson establishes that Christian hope is known from eyes of faith; we’ve already alluded to this fact. It is possible for a person who has not come to faith in Christ to be attracted to our claims about hope, but the reality of hope and the power to internalize it come only to those who are in relationships with God through Jesus Christ, the risen and living Lord. Once the miracle of coming to faith occurs in our own lives, then, knowing hope for the present and the future is almost “natural,” not easy, but natural. Apart from a faith relationship with God, we are left with despair: hopelessness.
To read or hear the news on any given day is almost always overwhelmingly negative. Current events suggest over and over again that care and respect for persons and our world, its environment, have been completely lost. That we continue to exist and have a place to exist is quite tenuous, especially given the fact that what we trust most are the tangibles. When these are threatened, our basis for meaning is threatened. Many want to throw up their hands and ask, “What’s the use?” But faith in God interrupts this line of reasoning by insisting that in spite of outward circumstances we can still have meaning in our lives, including a joy for living, because God is alive and powerful and present with any of us who will allow it. Further, whatever may happen today or tomorrow, that same God is caring for God’s people. That’s where there is hope.
From her cell in a Nazi concentration camp where she was held prisoner during part of World War II for hiding Jews, Corrie ten Boom wrote, in a spirit of Christian hope:
Time [here] is something to be waded through. I am surprised that I can adjust so well. To some things I shall never get accustomed, but on the whole I am really happy. . . . Sometimes it may be dark, but the Savior provides his light and how wonderful that is. 1
And the apostle Paul testified in his letter to the Christians at Rome:
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39.
To Be Continued