It’s something we could all use a little more of right now. Life in the middle of a global pandemic and in a divided country has been very discouraging for most of us whether you identify as a Christian or not.
This is where hope comes in. It’s in the worst possible circumstances that hope often emerges. It’s not usually when things are going on perfectly or completely to our liking that we hope, but when things are not going perfectly, when things are falling a part, that we begin to hope.
Hope is birthed in the midst of suffering and pain.
We hope for better outcomes…for that new job, for that relationship to get serious, for better health, for children, for new friends, for a more fulfilling life.
Our hope for better outcomes often turns to hope in a person, group or pathway to get us those better outcomes. We hope in a spouse, a church, God, or perhaps a spiritual path. Hope is both a thing we do and a thing we inhabit and possess.
Hope is that inner feeling of joy and sense of relief that our lives and our futures are going to be ok.
Our present future hope
The early followers of Jesus talked about hope as having a present and future aspect to it. They believed that something about the future had been revealed to them that had a real effect on their present. More specifically, they believed that something had transpired in the present that revealed something about their future which had practical applications for their present circumstances.
What had happened. Jesus died.
Not too hopeful, I know, but we have to start there first. When Jesus died, his disciples and other followers who loved Jesus had lost all hope. They had believed Jesus was God’s answer to their world’s worst problems, and yet Jesus had died. Mission over. Not only that, but he had died horribly by one of the worst possible ways imaginable…Roman crucifixion.
It was in that place of despair that something good unexpectedly happened. The one they loved, who they thought was God’s answer, and who they thought had died, appeared to them.
But he wasn’t a ghost visiting from the dead. This wasn’t merely wishful thinking. They believed they saw none other than Jesus himself, a newly revitalized Jesus, but Jesus nonetheless. They believed Jesus had been raised from the dead.
What was once dead, actually dead, really dead, was now standing in front of them breathing new breath, walking and eating meals with them on the shores of Galilee, their old stomping grounds.
The Christian hope that flowed out of this story of Jesus’ resurrection is this: just as with Jesus, who died and was later raised from the dead, God will at some future point breathe new life into everything that has died.
Death will be no more. What was once dead will come to life again. More than that, it will receive a better quality of life than it had prior to death. Some of them called this “the Resurrection.” Others called it “the renewal of all things.” Still others “the new heavens and new earth.”
While that may initially sound like this only had future implications, it actually revealed to them something powerful about their present. If God was going to renew or resurrect everything in all creation that had died and suffered decay, then God is the kind of being who is in the business of not wasting things. God makes new things out of old material and then repurposes them. In fact, it was the ongoing present reality and transformation of God’s spirit within them that convinced them to continue to hope in God for this kind of future.
And if nothing will be wasted in God’s future, then what we do today matters. Not only this, but whatever good we do in our world today will be carried over into that future world. This means that our work, our play, our love, our creativity, our investments into people and places and things will carry over into God’s new world.
For them, Christian hope was not about escaping or leaving this earth, but the remaking of the heavens and earth and all that is in them by renewing and repurposing them. Yes even for God’s glory.
If that is true, then we have a lot of work to do. We have lives to care for. We have a world of people to help and support and love and nurture.
Because nothing will be wasted.
Photo credit: Wes Hicks
Bible passages to consider that relate to this blog post: John 10:1-24, Acts 1:1-7, Romans 8:11-25, 1 Corinthian 15:1-58, 2 Corinthians 5:1-5, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18, Revelation 21:1-5