H is for “Hope”

Over the course of the Easter season, I see a lot of my colleagues and friends posting various nuanced critiques of the nature of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. They struggle to accept the miraculous nature of what happened. It is completely understandable. They consider life through their own lived experience, and they cannot conceive of how an execution can be holy or how a person could be raised from the dead. These are not unreasonable objections and, if our world is ruled by anything today, it is a call to be “reasonable.” In their doubt and reticence to believe, they are not unlike the disciples, they have locked themselves away, not unreasonably, in fear. Let us instead unlock the doors of our hearts and live in hope.

There is, perhaps, no word with greater ambiguity and yet more discussion of its meaning than “hope.” It can carry the sense of wishful thinking, a desire for some outcome or something to be true without any evidence that it ought to be true. Some have thought of hope as an evil that causes people to refuse to acknowledge the harsh reality of life. Some, like Nietzsche,1 see hope as evil since it provides unwarranted expectations that life may get better and thus prolongs our torment in this life. For many, hope is simply fantasy, baseless positive thinking with no basis in reality. It is unreasonable. None of that is the biblical view of hope. 

Hope is, of course, always a looking forward, an expectation of something that has not yet happened. In the biblical context, it is looking forward to the Day of the Lord, the Resurrection, and the re-Creation of all things. The hope of Christianity, however, is not a baseless, unwarranted expectation. It is grounded in the witness of the resurrection of Jesus and the promises of God. It is the testimony of others who have called out to God and felt the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and seen God’s power at work, transforming the darkness into light, bringing good out of anything. It is upon that basis that we hope and “look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” 

Yet living in the hope of the resurrection is not escapism. Christians and Christianity acknowledge fully the hurting and hurtful nature of this world. In Paul’s great passage on hope (Romans 8), he describes creation itself as groaning in anticipation of its redemption. “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God…in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” The hope of the resurrection is the looking forward to when all creation, heaven and earth and humanity, will be all transformed into the glory that God intended for us at the outset. This hope is “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,” even as we continue to live in this world, even as we look and work with expectation for the world to come, in the certain hope of God’s Kingdom come. 

No, hope is not escapism, it is essential. “What oxygen is for the lungs, such is hope for the meaning of human life.”2 So Emil Brunner opens his book by observing the absolute necessity of hope for all humanity. Christian hope is the sure foundation of the resurrected Jesus.

So it was that the risen Christ appeared to the disciples in order to free them from fear and open up the door to life. He then sent them out into the world to spread the Gospel, so that all the word “may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” Live this life in the hope and the assurance of our eternal life.

  1. “Zeus did not wish man, however much he might be tormented by the other evils, to fling away his life, but to go on letting himself be tormented again and again. Therefore he gives Man hope, in reality it is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs the torments of Man.” ↩︎
  2. Brunner, Eternal Hope, p. 7. ↩︎

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