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Monday, July 24, 2006

The Nature of Christian Hope

Whilst reading an article from Orion Magazine I began to consider the extent of the Christian hope. The article is written by an ardent enviromentalist who laments the fact that hope has been hijacked and has come to mean, in some instances, that it becomes a deferred ideal that will never happen but has the effect of ending affirmative action; in this case towards the preservation of the environment.

Jensen suggests that "hope is really nothing more than a secular way of keeping us in line" and "hope is a longing for a future condition over which you have no agency; it means you are essentially powerless." As I read through this I began to wonder what such a person makes of the Christian hope as it is communicated through the Church. Does Christian hope keep people "in line"? Does it take away the passionate affirmative action that characterised Jesus? As I see it in many evangelical churches the hope is mostly focussed on a future in heaven and Christians simply get on with there lives the best they can.

Is the Christian hope a "longing for a future condition over which (we) have no agency"? Perhaps the Church needs to redefine or re-explain the concept of the "Kingdom of God" and the meaning of discipleship. The article doesn't interact with Christianity except in a couple of passing references to a "God" figure but perhaps that is because the Church, generally, has nothing to communicate to someone who cares passionately about this planet; about this planet which Christians believed that God created!

Jensen moves on to suggest that the antidote to false hopes and hope that results in practical inertia is to "give up on hope". He goes on to say that when hope dies "the you who died with the hope was not you" but the you who depended upon the exploitation inherent in the false conception of hope. "When you give up on hope you turn away from fear".

I was extremely challenged by this article. I was challenged to consider how much I care about the systematic destruction of this planet. I was challenged to consider how much the Church of God cares for this planet. I was challenged to consider the hope that I have. 1 Peter 3:15b says "And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it" (NLT). What is it? Do I simply respond that Jesus lived a sinless life, died for me and rose again from the dead? Is this it? Is this life merely the waiting room for entrance to heaven for those who hold an invitation? Or is the Christian hope also contained in the words that Jesus taught his disciples to pray should they ever need a template?

Matt 6:10
"May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done here on earth"

What is God's will? Perhaps if the Church came out of its hallowed doorways for a while and observed the world outside it would see that Jesus is in fact at work in many places. Some of those places don't look like traditional churches, house churches or e-churches. They just look like people who are trying to figure out their lives and they need some realistic hope. This planet also could do with some help from those who claim to honour the creator.

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