Called to Hope
Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:50-58
In the New Testament the word ‘hope’ never indicates wishful thinking, nor a vague or fearful anticipation, but always the expectation of something good. What we hope for is something in the future; it has not yet arrived, but it certainly will. Indeed, we already have foretastes of that future: the blessings Christ has brought us – forgiveness, acceptance by God, a place in his family as his beloved children, his presence with us by his Holy Spirit – all these are not only elements of the future God has in store for us, but also things we enjoy in the present. Indeed, they guarantee what is to come.
The word ‘hope’ describes both our confident expectation, and also the content of it, what we expect to happen. We don’t know the details. But we know enough to fill us with joy and to encourage us to keep going through all that this life brings us, as our reading shows.
What is Christian hope?
What do we expect? What does the future hold for followers of Jesus?
God is working his purpose out. ‘In all things God is working for good…’ (Romans 8:28). Jesus came that we ‘may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). That fulfilment has many aspects.
Fulfilment for humanity. When Jesus returns to this world in all his kingly glory, ‘the dead in Christ shall rise’ and those who are alive at his coming will be transformed, so that all his people will share his resurrection life. We will have new bodies, perfectly in tune with the new nature planted in us when we first believed in Jesus. We will not be a shadow of our former selves, but our former selves will be fulfilled by our new life.
Fulfilment for creation. Nature itself will be transformed, liberated from ‘its bondage to decay’. It will be a new world, derived from this world but brought to a fulfilment in which all its beauty and potential flourish and there is nothing harmful or negative.
Fulfilment for God’s kingdom. Jesus is king, and his reign is extending; but God’s will is still not done on earth as it should be. However, the day will come when his reign of love will be all-embracing, and his purposes will have been fulfilled.
The future we are waiting for will be one of true freedom: freedom from sin, from fear, from suffering of every kind, from injustice, from death itself. It will not be freedom from authority, for true freedom is only possible in God’s presence and service, the element we are fully at home in.
The future will not be ego-centric, or centred on anything except God himself. All will be united in Christ, just as a conductor holds a choir and orchestra together in harmony. God will be all in all, and it is that which brings fulfilment and freedom to creation.
What is the effect of Christian hope?
Is it ‘pie in the sky when you die’, giving us the ability to put up with life in this world because we know there is something better in the next? On the contrary, Christian hope is arguably the main driving force for sacrificial loving action: we know that nothing we do in Christ will ever be in vain, all will achieve its purpose and will be worth it. We ‘wait’ in hope; but we also work for it – we are God’s agents bringing his purposes further towards fulfilment, by the power of his Spirit in us.
TO THINK ABOUT
What is your hope in life? What difference does it make to the way you live?