Friday, 19 September 2014
The Morning After: Hungry for Hope
Good morning. Or is it?
I’m writing this post the morning before. I don’t know what we’ll wake up to “the morning after” this most distasteful election of our national history. I may not know who will win as I write this, but I know what I’ll need the morning after.
Hope. Because without hope I won’t even want to get out of bed. Without hope you and I will quit. We’ll curl up, withdraw into the cocoon of family, sequester ourselves with those who feel the same way we do. Without hope I’ll just hunker down and wait for Jesus to come.
I won’t be willing to ask the necessary post-election question for all citizens, including those of us waiting for the kingdom to come:
“What do I do now?”
or as Francis Schaeffer put it,
“How then shall we live?”
To answer that question I need hope.
Past elections have often stirred high hopes in us for a particular candidate, sometimes too high. When Oprah called Barak Obama “the One” during the 2008 campaign, she was voicing the real tendency toward messianic hope that hibernates in each of us.
Christians–whether politically liberal or conservative–seem particularly susceptible to this temptation. Though we know the true Deliverer is still to come, we can’t help getting our hopes up. We’re primed to place our trust in the next leader that captures our heart with some combination of election promises and projected character. We want to believe.
False hope inevitably swells in us until it bursts, and the let down isn’t gentle. Messianic hopes are especially destructive, blinding us to the faults of our chosen one and then suddenly stripping off the “emperor’s new clothes” before our eyes and leaving us feeling foolish.
Never again, we vow. Until the next time it happens.
As the field narrowed, the pendulum began to swing in our hearts from false hope to no hope. We floundered and looked around for third options. Our emotions plummeted. Our self-protection mechanism began to kick in. “Maybe if I just lower my expectations I won’t be disappointed.” So we did. A little, then a lot, then all the way.
I mean, how low can you go?
Hopelessness is the most dangerous condition we can experience, not just personally but for our country. Hope is what engenders all constructive action. Without it we devolve into destructive actions or despair.
Our real hope must be grounded in the only one who can’t disappoint our messianic expectations–the One who came and is coming again. This is not some “pie in the sky” hope that will tempt us to withdraw from earthly life, this is the rock solid real hope that will give us tangible ways to engage our culture and our communities no matter who sits in the White House.
How then shall I live? As a follower of the Christ who is united to him by the Spirit.
Thus I will, by the power of the Holy Spirit:
- engage with, not withdraw from, those who hold different views–because he came down to live among us (John 1:14).
- love, not hate, my enemies–because he died for us while we were still enemies (Romans 5:8, 10).
- show mercy, not judgment, to those in need–because he came not to judge but to save (John 3:17).
- show justice, not indifference, to those without power or rights–because he became meek to reach the lowest (Matthew 12:20).
That’s because our faith assures us that the real Messiah came down into our messy world. He didn’t hunker down in heaven and send a drone to save us. He descended into the mess, therefore so must we.
Our creed also tells us that the real Messiah has ascended again, having conquered sin and death. He rules. But Scripture tells us that this is a unique time in his reign:
The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” Psalm 110:1
Right now Christ is ruling “in the midst of [his] enemies” (Psalm 110:2). His ascent means we can have confidence, even when we feel surrounded by enemies. His ascended, therefore we can act with hope, because his reign has begun and his return is imminent.
There’s one more thing we can do with all this hope: give a reason for it.
“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:14b-15).
Act out your hope in Christ and get ready to answer when they ask.
Because they will, my friends, they will.