Explorations in Theology

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What hope do you have?

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:15-17).

Hope, ultimate (new heavens and new earth, resurrected humanity) and immediate. What can possibly go wrong with the world now that increasingly we have those shaping things who are ever so competent – and of course in the main claiming to be defending Christian values? OK, hold back that seemingly endless list!

I do despair at times when we look ahead. The lack of care for the planet has already terminated the life of many species and is on track to threaten human life as it has been expressed. I despair when I look at the rise of hate crimes. I despair at the widespread nature of poverty… Hope? There is space for an understandable lack of hope.

Peter’s verses speak into the realm of ultimate hope. We anticipate an intervention of heaven. We do not have some vague hope that things will just get better, nor do we subscribe to the Enlightenment myth of progress. We have hope not because we can simply get there from where we are, but we know that the future will be changed by the arrival of the already secured ultimate future.

Ultimate hope. Yet there is also some immediate hope that we can carry. Change comes when there is flux, when there is crisis. This is where we are in one situation after another. Nationalism and the almost-always-present follower of racism that does not look to promote stewardship but ownership can either be seen as a sign of our impoverished future that is hastening toward us (for the greater level of diversity the greater potential for heaven’s presence), or a sign that we are headed for a reset. That is my hope.

I am not sure if we will get an overwhelming vote from believers for a reset, and given that I see believers as having such a key to unlock perhaps I should not have too much hope. But…

I think there are enough who are lovers of Jesus at a level whereby they do not confuse Western culture as being synonymous with the kingdom of God and are willing to be inconvenienced. Those are the ones who, though embedded, live as aliens. I think there are enough who are willing to walk hand in hand with those who have not made the jump to receive Christ, but who have a God vision. They probably have no theology for that – and why should they have a theology if they do not believe in God, or only have a vague belief in a ‘god’. It might be a bit cheeky of me to give them a theology, but I will try. They see (all) others as having value, for theologically all are in the image of God. True lovers of Jesus might just have to join hands tightly to such people and slacken their grip to those who read the same Bible but cannot see the other. If a mark of being born again is of seeing, maybe we need to re-visit the context of Jesus’ discourse on the new birth?

I have hope that there is a growing disillusion with the status quo right across the board. That the rampant consumerism (the original sin) cannot be idolised but a new set of values have to be embraced. That growing movement gives me hope.

I pray there will be a great smattering of crazy Jesus believers in the mix of it all whose faith can help accelerate change. Those who are able to hold on to that ultimate hope for the future joined to the resisters. Those who are both not afraid to mix with those who do not carry faith in Jesus and who have not lost their faith in Jesus, ever hoping that everyone would also experience the freedom they have found.

What a privilege to be a believer. And a responsibility. So let’s find the hands to be joined to.

6 thoughts on “What hope do you have?

  1. I completely agree. I really want to do this and do where possible considering my physical limitations which are significant. Problem is when I do directly oppose politics and attitudes which are contrary to what I believe are our priorities as Christians should be I run into opposition from pretty powerfully anointed evangelicals who have made it their mission to protect politicians who have actively encouraged racism and hate and other negative policies. It is extremely confusing and the spiritual backlash is also problematic. I cannot go down the road they’re on the alarm bells are too loud and yet these prophetically minded individuals still support dangerous people and policies which I have a very hard time understanding. Jesus had a pretty clear message about caring for the poor and weak and did the opposite of dehumanising people with every fibre of his being – those instructions couldn’t have been clearer and in fact he stated that a person could prophesy and heal etc.in his name and he could potentially say he didn’t even know them! Yet this support continues and in fact strengthens. Crazy stuff going on right now. I’ve taken to praying for unity along the lines of Psalm 133 as that seems pretty sound but doesn’t seem enough somehow. More protests are needed to ensure that we protect the weak and promote the real Jesus and demonstrate that he is in fact good news and the church should be more vocal in ‘calling out’ the evils going on right now! However I need to start with myself in this respect.

  2. First of all, I find this post hopeful. And we all need that right now. I’ve always sought to link up with anyone who has a Kingdom vision whether they used that language or not. It has meant going far beyond the church. My experience of the church was it is too focused inward. Rampant consumerism in the form of consuming not only stuff but experiences of god, getting the right worship music, right sermon etc. Church attendance is little different from the seniors I know who go on cruises and travel adventures to collect experiences, something they brag about as dinner guests.

    Beyond that, the reason I left the church 20 years ago was that despite all the braying about loving children most Christians could not be bothered with securing a decent future for them in terms of caring for the environment. Somehow, loving the planet and working to keep ecosystems healthy and functioning was considered something outside of the church. I still remember being mocked by the pastor of my church for that, in front of the whole congregation no less. I could not figure how most of my fellow congregants sat down to dinner at night and looked their children in the eyes, claimed to love them, and also lived lives that were damaging the earth and any future at all for their kids. Still baffles me.

    So lose the church as it exists. It is mostly a waste of time. All Abrahamic religions were born out of large scale agricultural and irrigation imperial like social and political structures. All are patriarchal as that suited the hierarchical organization of such cities, states, and nation states. Jesus resisted and challenged all of that, to the death. I think it is generally a clear choice at this point – follow the church or follow Jesus. The two, in many cases, are not compatible. That is not to say there are not Jesus followers in many churches, there are always a couple but the structure binds them.

    Time to break free, find the Kingdom people, link hands and get on with creating the next world. It wont be large scale agricultural societies but something different. And it is up to us to figure out what that will look like and how we will get there. Lots of work to do. Not a lot of time available. No time to waste on authoritarian and corrupted organizations.

  3. Thank you for this. Yes at times I struggle to be hopeful being honest. 2,000 years and what a mess we seem to have made :,(

    I’ve not been reading your blog so regularly so please forgive my early-hours-of-the-morning ramblings which may not be relevant or have previously been covered. 

    I have recently had cause to read some posts from atheists and athiest organisations and bloggers, with a very heavy heart – anti-religion (fair enough) and vehemtly anti-God in the same breath – so very sad, but the blood is on our hands – our (by which I mean religion’s) misrepresentation of God throughout history on a global and personal level. Yet the ‘Christians’ argue and debate with the atheists – insulting their intellect with retaliatory memes (or whatever they’re called), seemingly oblivious to what I perceive to be the problem. Personally I think it is very interesting that atheists cannot bring themselves to believe in a God who would condone what religion has presented. In some ironic way – they are protecting his/her sacredness (is that the right word – or sanctity?) in their minds. Or is that a crazy thought? 

    Yes – absolutely, we need to recognise the image of God and the aspects of God’s character and Kingdom that often those who claim not to know him/her seem to reflect better than those who call themselves Christians. It astounds me, when I have to work so hard on my attitudes and my character and cannot claim to be in the least bit Christlike, that it seems to come naturally to those who don’t ‘know God’!? And how much more effective they generally seem to be at projects that reflect God’s Kingdom values.

    I struggle (putting it mildly) with the ‘we’ve got all the answers, just come and join us and all will be well’ naive and blinkered mentality of the church largely. Yet I also see God still using the church, and I still believe Jesus is the only way. But there remains a lot of no-mans land – division and misunderstanding between those ‘in’ church and those working and connecting with the ‘gentiles’ – it can feel a lonely place, (in my very limited experience). It’s hard to find people to partner with, be accountable to and work or discipleship with when you want to ‘pioneer’ into new territory. Accountability is a word I struggle with the use and understanding of – as it can be used to control and inhibit creativity resulting in the perpetuation of the current culture, but I have also seen first hand the dangers of forging ahead believing you have been uniquely appointed by God on a mission which no-one else understands :/ I’ve no idea what the answer to that is but I pray old wineskins will make room for new and that father’s and children’s hearts will be turned towards each other.

    There are huge challenges and questions about what discipleship looks like amongst gentiles and which are the unnecessary burdens (cultural circumcisions) we might attempt to place on them. How do we walk humbly and respectfully alongside people whilst also seeking to walk more closely with Jesus and encouraging them to do so too?

    Anyway, where is my hope? Yes the things you have said give me hope – people questioning/deconstructing and the ‘dangerous opportunity’ crisis provides. I feel hopeful when I see people positively exploring new kinds of faith communities, and glimpses of connecting more deeply and authentically with people (managing to shed the superficial facade of ‘Christian’ culture). And increasingly my only hope is in God that there are plans and purposes at work. Because I can’t see any other answer – obviously!??

    So anyway that’s a long winded way of saying I agree with your sentiment and your prayers. LORD change our hearts and our mindsets help us to see with your eyes.

    1. Thanks Melanie… The long-winded response made for a good read. We have a lot to answer for. I think there are also many changes coming in the world of ‘christendom’. Many aspects will get knocked (that will be hard) and will open up fresh opportunities to ask some basics. And it does not come more basic than ‘who is God?’

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