Monday, February 22, 2010

What may a christian hope for in this life? Part 5

While the scope of christian hope is almost universal, the nature of what is hoped for is not. Not all dreams of the future, even by christians are legitimate. Not all prayers, even from christians, are worthy. What, of the various and sometimes conflicting hopes of christians may be legitimate? One way of approaching the question would be to collate the desires of Christians throughout the world and throughout christian history, yet this would make the community the arbiter of the legitimacy of hope, ignoring it’s sinfulness and finitude, and would be a study in what a christian can hope for. Another approach would be to study the life experiences of christians throughout the last two thousand years, the highs and the lows, and calculate an average which the christian today may expect . Yet this would leave the legitimacy of hope purely in the hands of history, in what may be seen and calculated from the past, based on the assumption that the future will resemble the past. But Christian hope is also for what is as yet unseen. This does not mean it is an other-wordly hope, that which could never be seen, but simply that it is not seen yet. What is legitimate for a christian to hope for in this life then, will go beyond describing the reality of our eschatological tension, living between the resurrection and return of Jesus. The christian does not hope for this tension to continue eternally, as though this state of tension were the goal, but hopes for good to triumph over evil. Yet christian hope is not indeterminate, or determined simply by a free subjective appraisal of good. By definition, Christians have appraised and by the grace of God accepted a specific good; Jesus Christ and his kingdom. All legitimate christian hope must be aligned with Jesus Christ, in all his particularity, the one who was crucified and vindicated by God in the eschatological act of raising him from the dead. Jesus himself is our inheritance kept in heaven waiting to be revealed.
“the Christian hope doesn’t talk about the future per se.. it starts from a particular historical reality, and announces the future of that reality, it’s power over the future and it’s consummation...[it] talks about Jesus Christ and his future ."
Jurgen Moltmann Jesus himself is our anchor of hope that has entered before us into the sanctuary, behind the curtain, to be priest on our behalf forever. Thus our hopes for the glorification of God must be aligned with the God of Israel who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, rather than idolatrous projection of our desires. Christian hope for the world and all it’s people is that they would bow the knee to Jesus Christ and be saved, and so our hope for the world must be connected to his redeeming action. John, for all his confidence in God’s forgiveness, writes that we should not pray for those who commit the sin that leads to death, most likely apostasy and “denying that Jesus Christ came in the flesh and that his death is necessary for salvation” . Our hopes for lives of abundance may not be simply projections of our greed but must be shaped by Jesus own description of eternal life,”that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). To be legitimate, christian hope must be aligned with Jesus’ hopes and love for his people, not simply a calling on his name, but an alignment with his purposes . “True life means here love and there glory” Moltmann. Since a servant is not better than his master, this will necessarily involve the christian following Christ in suffering, indeed for the christian, suffering produces hope. 1 Peter repeatedly affirms that if we hope to share in Christ’s glory, we will also share in his sufferings.
“There is all the difference in the world between Christ uncrucified and Christ risen: they speak of two different kinds of hope for humanity, one unrealisable , the other barely imaginable, but at least truthful.” Rowan Williams

1 comment:

byron smith said...

But Christian hope is also for what is as yet unseen. This does not mean it is an other-wordly hope, that which could never be seen, but simply that it is not seen yet.
I hadn't thought of that verse like this before, but I like it!