After spending the first several weeks of our Engaging Culture and Finding God series as a discussion participant/casual observer, I actually had to teach last Sunday (gulp). Luckily I was already aware of the topic we were to cover, a distinctly Christian hope. As I mentioned during my last post about faith, we as Christians should want to stand out from our culture, but it should not be our t-shirts or politics that accomplishes that. Ideally, our faith, hope, and love would distinguish the Christian community from the culture.
What is hope? Beyond that, what is a distinctly Christian hope? In preparing to lead our discussion I discovered that hope is a tricky concept to nail down, so I had to lean on old faithful: the dictionary. The Dictionary application on my Mac told me that hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a person or thing that may help or save someone, or grounds for believing that something good may happen.
It seems as though most people spend their lives hoping bad things donâ??t happen, good things do happen, and that everything turns out OK. Maybe they secretly hope that there isnâ??t a God so they wonâ??t have to answer for their indiscretions, or that if there is a God they have been good enough to avoid his wrath. While it certainly it is a misplaced or false hope that desires the absence of God or the absence of grace, in the end, there is nothing inherently wrong with hoping that good things happen to you, or that bad things donâ??t happen to you. The problem is that these hopes are incomplete. Even these hopes are realized, the hoper remains just as empty and unsatisfied as he was before.
Enter the distinctly Christian hope. I found illumination on the subject in three places: 1. Romans 8:18-28. Read this passage several times and really focus on what Paul says about hope, especially in the context of the suffering he endured. 2. Our gifted and talented teacher whom I was filling in for, provided this definition: A Christian hope is rooted in the redemptive work of Christ and the anticipation of the recreation of all things. This articulation helped me expand my understanding of hope beyond my personal salvation to an anticipation of the completion of Godâ??s redemptive plan and â??the recreation of all thingsâ??. Looking forward to the new heaven, the new earth, every tear being wiped away, and streets of gold is a beautiful and awe-inspiring thing. 3. A short video from a great company called The Work of the People called â??What is Sacred?â?? that you can watch here. The story of the church community redeeming a dump site and transforming it into the beautiful stretch of beach that God intended it to be helped me understand how a Christian hope could impact my life and the lives of those I come in contact with. I realized that Christians who have embraced the Christian hope can see people, places, and things for what they could be, rather than what they are at the moment. At the end of the video Chris Seay wonders what would happen if more churches would turn their attention to the dump sites, literal and figural, in their communities with the Christian hope in mind. Lately Iâ??ve found myself wondering the same thing.