Speak up about hope

A Scripture that I have known for some time hit me at a new level yesterday (with the verse I am focused on emboldened below):

Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect. Maintain a good conscience so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil (1 Peter 3:13-17).

The word ‘defense’ is probably a little too strong – a ‘reply’ a ‘response’ is probably closer, like ‘asks for’ is probably better than ‘demands’… However we translate it the sense remains.

At the back of my mind of course the concept of always be ready to explain that I am full of hope of escaping eternal punishment because I am one of the ‘born again’ ones, and of course a sweet Scripture to place under the ‘evangelise / apologetics’ heading in the book of discipleship… BUT…

Hope in the New Testament is future oriented and ultimately tied to the parousia and the restoration of all things – the putting all things right. That is the hope, not the one that is in the back of my mind colouring how I read that Scripture. The context of the verse is of suffering unjustly, and not to respond with fear. The current scenario will give way to a different day. It will give way to ‘I see a new heaven and a new earth’. That is hope. Hope has come through in different contexts concerning the future -‘this world is not my home, I am just a-passing through’ was hope expressed in the context of slavery. We can critique the hope, but maybe all we need to do is change the lyrics a little. How about:

This world and its structures is not the home God intends for anyone, and as I honour Christ, I see a world beyond it, for the generations to come, and one in which I too will participate on that great day.

Not really suggesting that the above can be sung and give hope to the masses(!!), but my point is hope in the midst of this world is for the transformation of this world. Like the words of MLK when he spoke of day coming for his children when human relationships will be totally re-shaped.

Anyway back to our verse. Why would someone ask me about my hope? Well they are not going to ask if it is not evident. That is the first provocation – do I have hope for the here, or have I simply opted for a Greek-oriented (i.e. an unbiblical one) view of ‘life in the celestial by and by’? Amidst crises, pressures, setbacks if I have hope for a different world maybe someone will be provoked to ask me ‘why do you have hope’. Then I need to be ready with my answer. ‘I see a new creation’… it will come… it is coming… and even the pain and suffering is contributing to the future… that’s my hope.

Protest movements, protest marches stand against what is here, but within them is also a statement of a different future. I want to change so much – I keep watching economic structures (strictures) – but as much as protesting against, nay more than protesting against I need to see what is coming… and then to sow where I see the world is going.

There is a world that is doomed, world in the sense of what we have done with it; but there is a world that coming into view, world in the sense of ‘and God saw and it was GOOD’. There are false hopes always available to pull on, they are marked by what will pull strongly on the past, and in the Christian context draw on Scriptures and the (positive) impact of Christendom… They are false, not because they contain no truth, but simply because the viewpoint is expressed from the wrong location, and in being located there will not ease the transition but resist it.

So a note to self: Martin what is your hope? When asked why on earth (I like that phrase ‘on earth’) are you hopeful cos you are facing some setbacks… I think I will answer with ‘what is here around us is temporary, if I live inspired by what I see beyond the here and now, I am hopeful that I will contribute to the manifestation of what I see… and maybe inspire you to get similar sight… thanks for asking’.

And a final Scripture that indicates even some pretty entrenched people can be inspired by the hope they see in others:

[E]ven some officials of the province of Asia [Asiarchs] who were friendly to him sent him a message urging him not to venture into the theater (Acts 19:31).

Asiarchs… responsible to maintain the wonderful order of Rome, holding positions of great influence, having a lifestyle that would be considered a suitable reward for their work of expressing the glory of Rome far and wide; Paul proclaiming ‘Jesus, not Caesar’, disturbing all things… What hope did he carry that meant they did not want him to risk his life, even if that meant they were willing to risk their own lives? What did they see in his eyes?

The more I read the NT the more I am hopeful that if we can more and more align with what we read maybe we can come closer to that of a ‘new heaven and new earth’.

2 thoughts on “Speak up about hope

  1. Hope is critical right now. But what do we hope for? What does a new earth and heaven look like? Most theological teaching I remember posits the Kingdom as resembling Eden restored in some way. A new earth ends up looking backwards rather than forward.
    Interestingly, we have lost the possibility of that. . . forever. We are now on a new earth with a new climate and its parameters are emerging. Well, actually they are hard to see right now with all the wildfire smoke from Quebec blanketing the eastern part of the USA and Canada. Maybe that is for the best with so many hectares scorched. The estimate is that wildlife will be destabilized for decades. And that doesn’t account for reruns or other types of disasters.
    Hope in this new earth? I can’t comment on a new heaven, not sure what that means anyway but I can comment on a new earth. Unfortunately it does not resemble what many of us have longed for. What to do? Is this something we can hope for or hope in?
    We have no choice actually. Time to get our boots laced up and get ready to act. We need hope that is grounded in reality. That is what I teach my students. This new earth is our reality and we must find hope in connecting with it even if it feels a lot more hostile and difficult.
    After a course in climate adaptation in May I asked students if they felt hopeful. I work hard to keep tabs on their mental health in these types of courses as they can get overwhelmed with the information. The new earth doesn’t feel terribly friendly so it can be frightening. I was surprised. They all said they felt hopeful. How is that? I believe it comes from being informed and having tools to address the problems that arise on this new earth. Or maybe just naivety. Either way, as long as their hope is grounded in the reality of this new emerging earth, then I’m good with it. They can’t afford fantastical visions. They have to keep their feet on the ground with their hopes and dreams.
    The great task ahead of us all is to find our hope in this new earth and act upon it.

  2. I have been thinking about ‘hope’ over the past few months. In the context of faith, hope and love. Your post Martin got me to consider, why do I believe there is hope? Why do I have hope?
    It has been a choice to see beyond the adversity, the battles, the warfare. I have had the tendency to see darkness at work, viewing life through the lens of despair, destruction, and death. Simply waiting (and hoping) to return to my heavenly home. But for one reason and another, something has changed. For me. Dramatically. The hope I declare is not in heaven alone but in the love and redemption that heaven, and heaven on earth, has promised. It is greater than our brokenness.
    My God invites me to hope. He provides me hope. Because of his love. And only because of his love. I can claim that, know that, believe that, live that. And this only by faith. Faith that I’m loved. Only in Christ I’m forgiven. Emmanuel. My God is with me. On earth as in heaven. That has brought me immense security.
    These words may make little sense to others. Even edging on the esoteric. But for me this deep revelation has been transformational and restorative – even after 45+ years that I have walked a Christian faith. This hope is not philosophical but real and tangible. A peace has transcended as never before.
    Thanks again Martin for helping us consider and question the familiar. ‘Jesus not Caesar’ – brilliant.

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