A Little Theology of Hope
Can Go A Long Way
On a weekly basis, I have convesations with people who need hope. Life is hard. It is not working out the way they want. Struggles in marriages. Children problems. Financial problems. Fear. Anger. Depression. Anxiety. Doubt that God is going to come through for me in the way I want Him to. How do I engage with these "doubters and hopers."
It is time for a "bit" of theology. So bear with me and I think you will appreciate the different a little bit of good theology makes (as well as see the problems of "bad" theology). I'll do this with a number of short statements that will add up to a bigger picture understanding of hope.
1. Hope is always about a desired future reality. It is future because it is not yet. It is a better future because we desire it and usually we desire what we value and affirm as good. It is a reality because we really want it. Not just in theory but in actuality. A single person "may" desire to be married. An out of work individual desires a job. A childless couple desires a child. In each case, what is desired is seen as better and satisfaction will happen when the preferred future actually comes about.
2. When it comes to God and the things of God, we may broadly speak of "the kingdom of God." The kingdom of God is when the presence of God, the activity of God, the will of God and the "rule" of God are in operation. All Christian hope is hope concerning the kingdom of God coming on earth as it is in heaven.
3. Concerning the kingdom of God, there is ALWAYS an
Already but Not Yet
tension we experience. God's kingdom is already here, but it is not yet fully here. God's will is already being done, but only imperfectly and sporadically. God's will is already being done, but only by a few and only at some times. Christian hope is concerning what is NOT YET here.
An improving economy may be the source of hope for a person. Improvements in medical technology may be the hope for a sick person who cannot currently be treated. A dating service may be the source of hope for the person looking for a partner. A peaceful settlement among disputing grops may be grounded in the work of political peace-making efforts. The needs are real - but the source of hope is found in earthly powers.
5. All hope that is generated from earthly sources is finite, temporary, limited, and tainted with inadequacy. It is a fragile and tentative hope. Human history is littered with the wreckage of this tenuous fragility.
6. Still, it is the work of God's people to labor on earth for the sake of truth, beauty, goodness and love and do that in and through the systems of this earth. In other words, we engage in political, economic, legal systems to accomplish things we believe are good and worth fighting for. Even temporary shalom is better than no peace.
7. We have a future/eternal perspective. So as we work for the sake of hope, as we pray for God's grace to make real what we work for, we also know that the FULNESS of what we seek is NOT YET here and will only be FULLY here at the consumation and renewal of all things.
In other words, we can experience the down payment (the first fruits) of what is hoped for, but the full and final possession (the rich harvest) is eschatological.
Christian hope is inescapably eschatological. It is rooted in the future fullness of God's kingdom. But Christian hope is never escapist. We never capitulate (give up) and we never cease in our labors as we wait hopefully for the coming of the King and His kingdom.
8. We do not over-invest our hope in earthly, finite resolutions and outcomes. To do this is to set oneself up for a life of disappointment, dismay and despair. (A growing problem for so many). We are not inordinately attached to the things of (values, solutions, methodologies, promises) this fallen world.
9. And, we rightfully and appropriately appreciate and receive with thanksgving, all limited hopes as they come our way and still know a better future is yet to be. Humility, prayerfulnes and thankfulness are the way to cultivate hope.
Now, with this biblical framework in place, what are you hoping for? And what are you hearing from God about what you hope for?
p.s. This was A Theology of Hope Made Simple. If you want to chew on the meat of these things, there are two thoughtful books that will take time and work.
Surprised by Hope by British, New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright
A Theology of Hope by the German theologian, Jurgen Moltmann
Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International