Our faith points to hope and the need for courage

Diana Butler Bass

Today is election day. When the results are in, some of us may feel a sense of hope, others may feel hopeless. Either reaction denies our greater reality of hope in Christ and the divine purposes of God.

“Hope is not a political slogan,” writes Diana Butler Bass inReflections. “In Christian tradition, hope is one of the three theological virtues. According to Paul in First Corinthians 13, hope, along with faith and love, form the core of Christian life. In classical theology, hope is the opposite of despair, of which John Chrysostom said, ‘It is not so much sin that plunges us into disaster, as rather despair.’”

Butler contrasts the despair that life can implant in one’s soul with the hope that Christ brings. Lament provides the pathway out of despair.

“We must lament the state of things because we believe a different future is possible; we must acquaint ourselves with despair because we know the gulf between the two. But lament and understanding do not end in despair. Rather, despair points toward a spiritual reality: at the center of all doubt is, as the Hebrew prophets write, a steadfast and compassionate God.”

We would not lament if we thought there was nothing beyond despair, because to lament is to mourn for the loss of something. We have lost Eden. We have been cast from the garden. But there was a God of Eden and a God who draws us toward a new Eden. Thus there is hope.

Bass couples hope with courage. For the Apostle Paul, she said, “hope goes far beyond sentimental feelings. Hope is the driving vision of a world restored by grace, and the ability to act upon what is only partly seen.”

“To those who trust that the future holds the promise of God’s salvation, hope-filled action is courage. Indeed, without the courage to act, hope is just a word or a slogan on a fading poster. However, when we act with deep assurance that things can and will be different, acedia [the desire to flee from the good, toward apathy, isolation, even death] loses its hold and we can move back into the world. Hope and courage are intimately connected in a mutual exchange of expectation and transformation. Hope without courage is a platitude; courage without hope is folly.”

The hope God has given us was never meant solely to apply to a heavenly afterlife. Hope, like love and faith, is for life, and life begins now.

Watch the election returns, because they are very important to our national life. But raise up no political figure as a messiah for we already have The Messiah. And tear down no politician as an anti-Christ for he or she is a child of God.

“[H]ope comes not through political campaigns. Rather, lasting hope will spring from a rebirth of courage in faith communities, when God’s people prophetically act on divine intention for a world transformed. . . . [T]he groaning of creation strangely cheers me. After all, these are the labor pains. Redemption awaits.”

This is the second of several posts I am going to write related to the the current issue of Reflections.

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