I Can't Live without Hope1
I can live in the absence of a lot of things. If pressured to do so, I can probably get by without baseball and movies and books and a nice car and the home where Ann and I currently reside. To lose all that would be hard. It would put a strain on life. But I think I can live without them. Continue reading . . .
I can live in the absence of a lot of things. If pressured to do so, I can probably get by without baseball and movies and books and a nice car and the home where Ann and I currently reside. To lose all that would be hard. It would put a strain on life. But I think I can live without them.
There is one thing, however, without which I cannot live or thrive. I cannot live without hope. To live without hope that God has a purpose for human history, a purpose for my personal history; to live without hope that God will one day bring all things to consummation and put the world to rights; to live in such a world would be senseless and, at least for me, impossible. To live without hope that there is a conscious eternity following physical death, to live without hope that Jesus Christ is alive and will deliver his people from death and sin and destruction, to live without hope that truth will be vindicated and all lies exposed; to live without hope that genuine justice will finally be done, is simply inconceivable to me. Were such hope not to exist, I would cease to exist.
To go through life childless or friendless or loveless must be a horrible experience. But people do it all the time. But nothing can possibly compare with living a life that ultimately is hopeless.
Yet, there are people who attempt to live that way. A Methodist minister from Sri Lanka visited Ghana many years ago. He invited some Hindu friends to tea and asked them to give an account of the hope that was in them. Not only were they unable to understand what he meant by his question, he soon discovered that their language simply did not have a verbal equivalent for our concept of hope. Nothing in their language, and certainly nothing in their religion, could serve as a functional equivalent to the Christian concept of hope.
Not all versions of “hope” are good or helpful. Some people try to cope with their problems by cultivating what they call “hope” that something better will appear around the corner. They can’t bear facing the pain and pressures of life in the present, so they create a fantasy world for themselves, “hermetically sealed to keep out the cold of reality. [Such so-called ‘hope’] is escapist, defeatist, [and] trivial” (Stephen Travis, 11). In the end, it accomplishes nothing except to delay the inevitable.
That’s actually how a lot of non-Christians think about us. They believe that we embrace life after death in order to escape dealing with the problems this present life brings our way. Our hope in the second coming of Jesus Christ, so they say, is simply a pious way of making life livable and perhaps a way to justify shirking our responsibilities in the here and now.
Let me say this as clearly as I can: that is not the nature or purpose of Christian hope! In fact, it is hope in the second coming of Jesus Christ that empowers us and motivates us to tackle head on the problems of the present. It is the hope of the second coming of Christ that gives meaning and value to life in the present. It is hope in the second coming of Christ and his power to transform our bodies and to subject all things to himself that gives us a reason to live in imitation of Christ, rather than to be like those in ancient Philippi whose “end is destruction” and whose “god is their belly” and who “glory in their shame” and who “set their minds on earthly things.” That is Paul’s point in Philippians 3:17-12. Let’s look at it together. Paul writes:
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:17-21).
To be continued . . .