Posted by: Dan | January 21, 2005

The Kingdom of Hope

To announce the kingdom as hope is to announce a future which every present takes meaning from, and in which any past is redeemed. It is to live by the power of the future… How, then, can we announce the kingdom of God as hope? By hoping. By living and sharing hope. By working with hope. By dying with hope!
– Mortimer Arias

It wasn't until four or five years ago that I started to seriously think about the role of hope in Christianity. It was around then that I started reading Moltmann (cf. “Theology of Hope”) and started journeying in intimate love relationships with people who had been deeply broken and forsaken.

I have come to believe that the reason why hope receives so little attention in the North American church is because the North American church is dominated by people who have no genuine need for a transformative hope. Having little personal experience of suffering and little faith in a God who genuinely breaks into history most North American Christians focus hope on the after-life. But even then they wouldn't tend to call it hope – they would tend to call it faith. Hope is a word that is used almost shamefully. Hope is taken as a sign of weak faith. If they had enough faith they would just believe something would happen, they wouldn't hope for it to happen. Of course, all this has little bearing on the way in which they live their lives, climbing corporate ladders, investing for retirement, making sure the kids go to a good school…

Most North American Christians are essentially hopeless.

Yet hope is at the center of the Christian faith. After all, ours is the “God of hope” (Romans 16) who desires that we “abound in hope” (ibid.) and in the end it is faith, hope, and love that will remain (1 Corinthians 13). We talk a lot about faith and love but where is hope? I think we rediscover hope when we rediscover that to follow Christ is to journey alongside of the suffering. In such relationships hope becomes essential. And not merely as an aid in the process. Hope is essential for the enactment of present transformation. That is to say, hopeless Christianity is also impotent Christianity. Hopeful Christianity is empowered Christianity that brings new life. Hope causes the future to break into the present. That's why the church is to exist as an embodiment of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the kingdoms of the world. The church is to be an in-breaking eschatological reality.

In hope I can say to all those I encounter that the past does not have the final word. In hope I see the present transformed. For the Christian hope is different than other hopes. There is a certainty, an assurance, attached to it. It is not in vain. And no matter how dark the road and how painful the cross the end result will be resurrection that causes salvation to break into the world.

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