Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hope's Audaciousness

I was going to title this "The Audacity of Hope," but I'm pretty sure that title has been taken.

This isn't going to be a comment on the new President or his book or the inauguration. I haven't read President Obama's book; I've never read any book written by a politician, especially those written by politicians who are running for office. I've always figured that such books are just part of the campaign shill that make elections so tiresome.

I'm intrigued by the concept, however, that all hope is audacious, and the more hope is needed, the more audacious it is. It was to a people undergoing persecution from the Jews and the Romans that the writer of Hebrews wrote "Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful." (Hebrews 10:23)

I have no idea what it is like to live under persecution, not knowing if today you are going to be arrested and charged with treason just because of your faith. Not knowing if, when your son leaves in the morning, you will ever see him again because he might be arrested and killed. Going to church one Sunday and the couple who always sits in front of you is gone and never coming back.

I can't imagine. Most Americans can't. We can't imagine the constant fear like an ever-present intruder who has moved into the guest room and won't leave.

For most of us, hope is not that hard and rarely that audacious. Not that we don't ever have problems, but for most of our lives we have encountered, endured, worked around or pushed our way through them, and we live with a certain expectation that we will always be able to do so.

We are even told not to call problems "problems." They are "challenges to be overcome." They are "opportunities for genius." They are "character-builders." And I'm not being facetious here, for most of our problems really don't amount to much more than challenges to overcome, opportunities for genius, and points at which to grow as a person. So when we are confronted by problems, we may be vexed, we may even be worried because we don't see an answer--but we live with a hope that an answer will come to us. It usually does, and so we live with that hope, and it's not that audacious. Hope that has a track record isn't very audacious.

But to hope when there's no reason to hope, now that's audacious. It's not very reasonable, it's not very practical, it's not very rational, and for that reason it is very audacious. Bold. Reckless. Daring.


Look up "audacious" and you'll see that word. "Fearlessly, often recklessly daring." "Invulnerable to fear or intimidation." That's what audacious hope is.

Christian hope is audacious. Ask the writer of Hebrews, or check out 1 Peter, another epistle written to Christians in persecution. In the midst of fearful circumstances, Christian hope refuses to be cowed.

Not to state the obvious, but in fearful circumstances the easiest thing to be is fearful. The craziest, most reckless, most daring thing to do is to be hopeful. And it is the thing that is most needed.

Because nobody can live long in fear, and nobody can live long without hope.

"Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God." 1 Peter 1:21

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